Disney has made clear this year, especially with a recent restructuring, that it’s focusing on streaming. Disney+ last month marked its first birthday, with subscriber numbers, of over seventy million, beyond even Disney’s expectation. The company has also taken full control of Hulu, while selling it in a bundle along with Disney+ and its sports service ESPN+.
Thus far, Disney+ has been the place for family-oriented programming, and for movies and shows associated with Disney’s massive amount of intellectual property, while Hulu has hosted more adult-oriented fare, and also a growing number of original movies and shows.
But now, there’s a report that Disney’s two most prominent streaming services may become one.
A report over the weekend by the movie news website Collider stated that there are indications that Disney is moving towards folding the two services into one. The idea, per the report, is that investors would be more impressed if Disney could put forward a single service with 110 million subscribers, rather than one with 73.7 million and 36.6 million. In addition, executives from both services have left in recent months.
However, a Hulu spokesperson told Collider that “this is hypothetical speculation and there are no such plans.” Indeed, the Collider piece is large couched in hypotheticals such as “there has been speculation,” such a deal “would make a lot of sense down the line.” The site may have some inside information about plans by Disney, but it doesn’t come right out and say that the merger will happen.
If Disney were to combine the services, it’s not clear what it would mean for pricing, and whether customers would get a discount from what they’re currently paying if they subscribe to both services. After all, enough people already subscribe to both Disney+ and Hulu that the combined number of subscribers would likely add up to less than 100 million.
It’s also unclear how ESPN+ would fit into the equation, in the event of such a merger.
Disney is hosting an investor day on Friday, which is “focused on the Company’s direct-to-consumer streaming services.”
Should the two Disney services combine, it would mark the latest development in the massive realignment that have taken place this year in the movie and exhibition industry. In the latest shock, Warner Media announced that its entire planned movie release slate for 2021, all sixteen films, will arrive on HBO Max on the same day they open in theaters. The move is seen as an attempt to increase that streaming service’s subscriber numbers.
The changes come as the coronavirus pandemic has led to more and more entertainment consumers turning to streaming, at the expense of traditional cable and movie theaters.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.