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What Does ‘Dancing with the Stars’ Move to Disney+ Mean for the Streamer, Hulu, Industry at Large

Matt Tamanini

It was nearly a certainty that Disney+ would eventually get into live programming at some point, as most other streaming services have, but this was not how I anticipated that going down. On Friday, the streamer announced that after 16 years and 30 seasons, ABC’s Emmy-winning competition show “Dancing with the Stars” would be moving from its original, linear home on ABC to Disney+ for its 31st and 32nd seasons, beginning this fall.

According to Deadline, ABC informed affiliates of the move but noted that per the recent deal between ESPN and the NFL, a select number of “Monday Night Football” games will be simulcast on the broadcast network — in “DWTS’s” former slot — with a few others airing there exclusively.

ABC told the affiliates, “After over 30 seasons of the program on ABC, including two spin-offs, Dancing with the Stars will move off of ABC this fall in order for the Network to showcase several Monday Night Football games as well as develop and invest in new and future programming.”

That explanation might very well be part of the reasoning for Disney to move one of its most reliable network properties to streaming, but there seems to be far more afoot.

Why Would Disney Move ‘DWTS’ from Network to Streaming?

Last month, Disney+ announced that they would be launching an ad-supported tier by the end of the year, and what better way to launch it than in conjunction with the streamer’s first-ever live series, which just so happens to be one of the most beloved, long-running programs in recent memory?

As Vulture’s TV and streaming expert Joe Adalian noted, the average age of a “DWTS” viewer is 63.9 years old, well above that of the traditional streaming program. So, if Disney can encourage some of “DWTS’s” loyal, older, streaming-hesitant viewers to come over to the service, that would likely be reason enough to make the move as broadcast ratings continue to decrease. But, even if the subscriber increases are minimal, having a staple at the launch of the ad-supported era could go a long way as there will undoubtedly be current subscribers who will also tune in.

While it might be a fairly cynical maneuver, one could imagine a world in which Disney+ subscribers who want to watch the show live — as they always have on ABC — would be forced to do so with ad breaks intact, even if they subscribed to the service’s ad-free tier. If they wanted the ad-free experience that they were paying for, those customers would have to wait until after the broadcast, be it immediately or the morning after.

Then, if this becomes the model for future live programming on the service, that would theoretically drive up the streamer’s ad-viewing numbers, allowing them to ask more from advertisers.

What Could that Mean for Other Shows Moving to Streaming?

If this experiment works, it could be the beginning of other shows that lend themselves to live-viewing migrating from broadcast to streaming. Would Disney+ commandeer “American Idol”? What about buzzy scripted shows like “Grey’s Anatomy,” “A Million Little Things,” and “The Good Doctor”? Could Disney move the “Bachelor” franchise shows off of ABC in favor of streaming (more on this in a minute)?

Could other networks do the same? Could “The Voice” and “America’s Got Talent” become Peacock programs? Could “Big Brother” (which already has a huge streaming component) or “Survivor” move to Paramount+? What about non-competition shows? Would Paramount move the entirety of the “NCIS” universe to streaming? What about NBCU making the “Law & Order” and One Chicago shows the cornerstones of an expanded Peacock?

As the world of streaming continues to evolve, it seems to be borrowing strategies more liberally from its broadcast predecessor as time goes on. The allure of live, real-time events (sports, awards shows, watercooler programs) have been the single aspect of the business that networks have clung to in order to justify their continued existence to an increasingly budget-conscious consumer base. But as streamers have invested more in live sports rights and are now dabbling in other live programming, what is the real long-term draw to putting high-quality content on networks?

Why is “DWTS” Going to Disney+ and Not Hulu?

As our own Ben Bowman noted earlier this week, the lines of demarcation between what is the purview of each of Disney’s three streaming services are becoming increasingly blurred. After debuting on Hulu, Oscar and Grammy-winning documentary “Summer of Soul” is now available on Disney+ as well, despite having no real connection to traditional Disney content.

Similarly, the docuseries on Super Bowl-winning quarterback Tom Brady launched on ESPN+, but is now also available on both Hulu and Disney+ even though it would seem like a perfect way to entice anyone with those latter services to subscribe to the Disney Bundle in order to watch it on the more sports-centric streamer.

So, as the boundaries between Disney’s streaming services are becoming increasingly blurred what exactly does that mean in terms of what constitutes Disney+ content vs. Hulu content? At first blush, it would seem that “Dancing with the Stars” would be more Hulu-fare than Disney+. It is a TV staple, which alines with the bulk of Hulu’s library, and as the service has suffered substantial content losses from NBCU shows departing for Peacock and over 2,500 movies to Paramount and Amazon, wouldn’t the live broadcast of a still-popular TV show be a major boon for the service?

If “DWTS” is determined to be more appropriate for Disney+ than Hulu, what about other must-watch-live programs, like “The Bachelor,” “The Bachelorette,” and “Bachelor in Paradise”? Their inclusion on Disney+ would certainly ruffle the feathers of many a parent group, but if the goal is to get as many eyeballs on your service (and in turn as many subscription fees in your coffers), would it not make sense to put your most popular programming behind an ad-supported paywall? As crazy as it sounds to even suggest moving the clearly adult-aimed franchise to the presumably family-friendly Disney+, Disney CEO Bob Chapek has shown a penchant for breaking all of his company's rules since the departure of his predecessor Bob Iger in December 2021.

So, with an increasing amount of content being shared between Disney streamers, the natural question becomes, “Why does Disney still have three streamers?” If Chapek is comfortable with this much fluidity between content libraries, could this be the beginning of one unified service for all of Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+’s programming?

We know that the plan for the soon-to-merge WarnerBros. Discovery is to eventually combine HBO Max and discovery+ (and potentially CNN+), could that be Chapek’s ultimate goal at Disney? The tea leaves certainly seem to be pointing in that direction.

  • Disney+

    Disney+는 Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic 등의 독점 시리즈와 영화를 제공하는 새로운 광고 없는 서비스 비디오 스트리밍 서비스입니다.

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    여러분은 “만달로리안,” “팔콘 & 윈터솔져,” “로키,” 그리고 “직장 괴물들”과 같은 오리지널 시리즈를 스트리밍 할 수 있고, “블랙 위도우,” “상치 & 텐링즈의 전설,” 그리고 “정글 크루즈”와 같은 히트 영화도 볼 수 있습니다.

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  • Hulu

    Hulu is a video streaming service that gives access to thousands of full seasons of exclusive series, hit movies, kids shows, and Hulu Originals like The Handmaid's Tale.

    It offers a good selection of current TV shows and its ad-supported tier is cheaper than both Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. You will be able to watch most shows from networks like ABC, NBC, Fox, and cable channels like Bravo, USA Network, FXX, FXM, HGTV, and more.

    The service has a Limited Commercials plan for $6.99 a month, or you can upgrade to their No Ads plan for $12.99 a month. For $69.99 a month, you can get Hulu Live TV from major cable channels, live locals and regional sports networks.

  • ESPN+

    ESPN+ is a live TV streaming service that gives access to thousands of live sporting events, original shows like Peyton’s Place, the entire library of 30 for 30, E:60, The Last Dance, as well exclusive written analysis from top ESPN insiders.

    The service can be subscribed for $6.99 / 달 per month or annually for $69.99 / 년.

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    ESPN+ now includes exclusive insights from analysts like Mel Kiper and Todd McShay (which used to be part of ESPN Insider), as well as premium Fantasy Tools & PickCenter.

    What it does not include is most live sports that air on ESPN 그리고 ESPN2.

    To get access to those channels you have to subscribe to a live TV streaming service. We suggest reading our guide on How to Watch ESPN without Cable.

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