A new report suggests that Disney is planning to merge Hulu and Disney+ into one unified streaming service under the Disney umbrella, with Hulu being subsumed into the already-more-popular Disney+. Read on as we break down what this might look like.
Collider reports that “multiple Hulu executives have been leaving or let go” from that service in anticipation of this potential shift. The idea of Hulu being folded into Disney+ has not been confirmed yet – maybe those departures are just a normal part of the corporate restructuring that’s going on there – but let’s take a closer look at this potential decision.
Right now, Disney owns two distinct streaming services. According to Collider, the reason a merger is being considered is because Disney would look more attractive to Wall Street if it could say it has 110 million total subscribers to a single service than it does to split that down into its respective service numbers. From a purely transactional standpoint, I can see how consolidating makes sense.
But in practice, things are more complicated. Collider points out that Hulu has a Live component which allows subscribers to access HBO, Showtime, and Starz directly through the Hulu platform – something Disney+ does not currently have. Then there’s the branding that must be considered: Disney has always put forth the image that it’s a family-friendly company, so would it really want to have R-rated content accessible to kids who click through the service looking to watch Moana for the millionth time? It wasn’t too long ago that the company shifted shows like High Fidelity and Love, Victor from Disney+ to Hulu partly in an attempt to keep those titles away from younger crowds.
Folding Hulu into Disney+ would be one step closer to removing Hulu as a home for development of slightly edgier content that doesn’t necessarily fit into the family-friendly, happy-go-lucky vibe of the traditional Disney brand. It would signal Disney’s lack of interest in making content for adults, which was already in short supply from major studios and streamers during the pre-COVID era. Do you think Disney+ would have acquired a film like Palm Springs from Sundance, served as the home to a thriller like Run, or put any resources into making a lesbian romantic comedy like Happiest Season? In the words of Macaulay Culkin’s Kevin McCallister (who is technically a Disney character himself in the wake of the Fox acquisition): “I don’t think so.”
And finally, there’s the financial side of the equation. Is it worth it for Disney to lose all of the subscriber fees for people who are currently paying separately for Hulu and Disney+, just to bolster the numbers of this potential mega-service? I have to assume the monthly price of Disney+ will immediately skyrocket after a merger like this, and Disney must be pretty confident that people would stick around through a significant price hike. They do have new Marvel shows and more Star Wars shows on the horizon, so maybe they’re banking that if people aren’t already hooked, they soon will be. We’re living in weird times, so anything is possible and we’ll keep you updated as soon as we learn more.
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