Disney+ Is Combining Hulu Into Its App (Well, Sort Of)

Convenient? Yes, but it suggests a murky future for Hulu, as do new announcements of price hikes and shows leaving the service.

General view of a Disney streaming services billboard above the El Capitan Entertainment Centre promoting their combined content of Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ on October 01, 2021
That $13.99 Disney+ bundle (as pictured in 2021) is looking quaint
AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

Disney+ is getting another price hike, but the more interesting news announced yesterday involves an app merger between Disney and Hulu — and the loss of several shows. Per Vulture, the announcement of the combined app took place during Disney’s second-quarter financial earnings call, which didn’t go that well (streaming losses shrunk but so did the subscriber base). During the call, CEO Bog Iger announced that Hulu would soon be offered through Disney+.

“We will soon begin offering a one-app experience domestically that incorporates our content via Disney+,” Iger said. “While we’ll continue to offer Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ as stand-alone options, this will provide greater opportunities for advertisers while giving bundle subscribers access to more robust and streamlined content resulting in greater audience engagement and ultimately leading to a more unified streaming experience.”

On the surface, not so bad — already, Disney+ in other countries offers “Star” through its service, which is aimed at older audiences. And you’ll now be able to access Hulu while you’re in Disney’s app, provided you subscribe to both services. And if you want to keep the apps separate, for now, that’s an option (as someone who vastly prefers Hulu’s interface, this is good news).

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Still, I do fear that this could eventually mark the end of Hulu as its own brand (the service is co-owned by Comcast, and that agreement ends in 2024) — and given that I vastly prefer the content on that service over any other streamer, it feels like the beginning of a slow phase-out. Basically, Disney is losing a lot of money on streaming, and Iger wants costs cut.

This is why the more troubling news is that so-called underperforming shows will soon disappear from the service, much like on HBO Max (which will soon be just Max). “We will be removing certain content from our streaming platforms and currently expect to take an impairment charge of approximately $1.5 to $1.8 billion,” says company CFO Christine McCarthy. For some, it brought back memories of the Disney Vault, where certain titles just disappeared for years at a time (now, some of these removed titles might be licensed out to other streamers, but again, that’ll cost you money).

Less content and an uncertain Hulu future aside, Disney appears to have no problems raising prices. The Streamable suggests that the new price for the ad-free tier of Disney+ will increase to “somewhere between $13-$15 per month,” and even the ESPN+/Disney+/Hulu bundle — still a solid discount — would see a price hike this year. The publication also notes that, for Disney, it’s preferable to drive customers to the ad-supported tiers, which costs consumers less but rakes in more money for the company.

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