June 22, 2024

Hulu on Disney+ Launches & What to Watch


The Walt Disney Company has officially launched Hulu on Disney+ in the U.S. for bundle subscribers, bringing together the libraries of both streaming services. You'll now find fan-favorite characters, award-winning films and series, and 100

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The Walt Disney Company has officially launched Hulu on Disney+ in the U.S. for bundle subscribers, bringing together the libraries of both streaming services. You’ll now find fan-favorite characters, award-winning films and series, and 100 years’ worth of stories all in one place. This post delves into the details of that, and shares our favorite “stories” you’ll find on Hulu.

The streaming service consolidation is a long time coming. Disney announced late last year that it’ll be spending at least $8.6 billion to buy the remaining 33% stake in Hulu from Comcast to become the sole owner of the streaming service. Disney became the majority stakeholder of Hulu in 2019 following its acquisition of 20th Century Fox.

As a reminder, this is not a 2024 decision to double down on streaming. Disney is contractually obligated to buy Hulu from Comcast. Under a 2019 agreement, either party can elect for Disney to purchase the remaining 33% stake owned by Comcast at a guaranteed minimum total equity value of $27.5 billion, guaranteeing Comcast at least $5.8 billion for its Hulu stake. Hulu’s value is higher than that, so Disney will pay more. (That’s not the point of this post, just reiterating it because fans are always angry that Disney is betting bigger on streaming–at least in this case, they don’t have a choice.)

According to Disney’s press release, the new Hulu on Disney+ experience is a seamless showcase of the value of the Disney Bundle that allows Bundle subscribers (or those who hold subscriptions to both standalone apps) to stream extensive Hulu content, including critically acclaimed fan favorites like Grey’s Anatomy, Only Murders in the Building, Poor Things and The Bear, directly in the Disney+ app. Bundle plans are available starting at $9.99/month, while Disney+ and Hulu each remain available as standalone offerings.

According to Joe Earley, President of Disney Direct-to-Consumer Entertainment, the goal of Hulu on Disney+ is “engagement, retention and happy, happy subscribers.” He added that the company is reducing friction for Disney Bundle subscribers, making it easier to find content in one place. Unlike during beta testing, when Hulu content was purposefully isolated to the Hulu Hub, it will now be fully integrated into Disney Bundle subscribers’ homepages.

Earley expects deeper engagement for Disney’s content: “It’s going to be exciting for titles like The BearShōgun, and Only Murders in the Building. During the beta, we saw these titles performing really well with subscribers who typically had been watching more Disney+ content. I can only imagine what’s going to happen now with increased discoverability and integration on the homepage.”

During the Hulu on Disney+ beta period, people watched a wider range of content, including adult animation, prestige dramas, and comedies – all in line with Hulu’s general entertainment strengths. Earley also mentioned that Bundle subscribers who have signed up since the beta began are watching more Hulu on Disney+ content than existing Disney Bundle subscribers, indicating that the integrated experience is resonating with consumers.

Disney is also quick to point out that adding access to more general entertainment titles via Hulu on Disney+ doesn’t come at the expense of families losing control over what their children can watch. “We know that consumers want ‘kid time,’ ‘we time,’ and ‘me time.’ Hulu on Disney+ now offers all of that and gives viewers options for their experience with parental controls and content settings,” said Earley.

I think this is smart to point out. One area of trepidation that Disney has long had (dating back to at least Eisner and Touchstone) is how to handle movies and shows with more mature themes targeted at adult audiences. Branding and silos have long been the answer, and that’ll need to continue to be the case. Still, I can foresee a few angry parents when their kids “accidentally” arrive at certain scenes in Poor Things or Pam & Tommy. 

Aaron LaBerge, President & CTO of Disney Entertainment & ESPN explained that this “enhanced experience” will improve personalization, search, and more. “This launch represents the most extensive technical advancement to Disney+ and our streaming platform since we launched Disney+ over four years ago,” LaBerge said. “As is often the case, making something simple, elegant, and easy for consumers can be quite complex behind the scenes.”

This range of content available via Hulu on Disney+ is part of a new 360-degree marketing campaign that will be introduced in the coming days and weeks. Among other things, it’ll include “bi-coastal experiential stunts” and “on-site activations at the Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort.” Obviously, I’m interested in what’ll be happening in the parks (probably photo ops and free buttons, but I’d love a Lord Toranaga meet & greet). I’m also curious about the bi-coastal experiential stunts…I hope it’s a Hulu zipline!

Subscribers will also be welcomed to the Disney+ app in a whole new way, featuring a new logo, color palette, and orchestral mnemonic created by Academy Award-winning composer Ludwig Göransson. They’re calling the color Aurora, both for the aurora borealis and also as an homage to Princess Aurora. (Note that the color is basically turquoise, not pink.)

When it comes to commentary, I’m not going to get carried away because I know most of you don’t really care. What I will say is that I think this is a good thing, and believe Disney’s claims about this driving “engagement, retention, and happy subscribers.” Disney+ still feels to me like a very incomplete streaming service, aimed at either children or super fans. We often go weeks, if not months, without ever even opening the app. I’m sure that’ll change in the coming years, but for now, it’s our least-used streaming service.

Hulu and Disney+ are definitely complementary streaming services, each having their own strengths. The combined app will have far more all-audience appeal, making it more of a bona fide Netflix competitor. While my armchair analyst opinion is still that he probably overpaid for it, Iger’s vision in purchasing 20th Century Fox is starting to come into focus.

Disney+ with Hulu has a lot of strong franchises, and ones that are now part of the Disney family of companies. It seems unlikely that Disney+ will ever dethrone Netflix, but it does seem like a weakness that there aren’t many brands that are viewed as distinctly Netflix. (Stranger Things, Wednesday, Queen’s Gambit, Bridgerton, and House of Cards come to mind. There are undoubtedly others, but how many are still popular and aren’t limited series?)

I’d love to see Disney take this a step further and similarly integrate ESPN+ into the Disney+ app. Max, Paramount+ and Peacock have all done this to varying degrees and it works well. I’ve found myself “accidentally” watching games on all three just by virtue of something being on when I opened the app. Hockey isn’t popular like the other major leagues, but I think the NHL could benefit from a similar dynamic with a presence in Disney Plus.

Hulu on Disney+ has the deep library, the throwaway fluff, movies–and also beloved brands, characters, and stories that are associated with (or could be) Disney. Sports would further round that out. Beyond that, I think it’d be savvy marketing to position FX as the upstart HBO–because it basically already is, and has been for over a decade! (I still remember watching the first episode of The Shield, and being floored by the episode-ending hook, back in 2002.)

Speaking of which, here’s a nonexhaustive list of some of my favorite shows on Hulu:

  • Only Murders in the Building
  • Shōgun
  • The Bear
  • Dopesick
  • American Crime Story
  • Fargo (series)
  • The Old Man
  • It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
  • Atlanta
  • The Americans
  • The Shield
  • Cheers & Frasier
  • New Girl, Modern Family & Blackish

I’m sure there are a lot of others I’m forgetting, this is just off the top of my head (and in quickly browsing my home screen). Also, pretty much none of these–save for the 5 sitcoms at the bottom of the list–are family friendly. (A list of movies would be too long, but I just watched Anatomy of a Fall last night and it was fantastic.)

For theme park fans, the Hulu on Disney+ integration should matter because streaming has been the biggest impediment to theme park investment. This going well and helping with engagement and retention–making the combined service a viable competitor to Netflix–would be hugely positive.

The streaming segment needs to attain profitability or at least stop hemorrhaging hundreds of millions of dollars per quarter, and some of Disney’s debt needs to be paid down before construction begins in earnest. Streaming not being a money pit would be a great thing, as it would allow focus on investing in theme parks (and not just treating them as cash cows to be milked), which are a source of stable and consistent growth.

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What’s your reaction Hulu on Disney+? Any favorite shows on the streaming services you’d recommend? Thoughts on anything else discussed here? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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