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Disney CEO Bob Chapek: ‘Next-Gen Storytelling’ Coming to Disney+, ‘Possible’ Combination of Disney+ & Hulu

David Satin

Big things are afoot at Disney. The House of Mouse is celebrating its 100th birthday in 2023, and it has some ambitious plans for its flagship streaming service Disney+. Disney CEO Bob Chapek spoke with Deadline and Variety, regarding those plans, and his comments offer fascinating insight into the future of Disney+, as well as Hulu and ESPN.

When asked if Disney was planning to transform Disney+ into a metaverse, Chapek shied away from the word itself. But he did acknowledge that is the concept Disney is looking toward as it plans Disney+’s future.

“Disney+ will not just be a movie-service platform, but it’s going to become an experiential lifestyle platform. A platform for the whole company to embody both the physical things that you might be able to experience in a theme park, but also the digital experiences that you can get through media,” Chapek said.

Those experiences will not only come through shows and movies, but through digitized versions of experiences you might actually have at a Disney theme park. Users may enjoy digital versions of popular Disney rides or digitally step out of the vehicle carrying them through the ride to look at an animatronic figure or set decoration up-close. Chapek said that to give that experience, the company might start with a VR headset before moving to “something more” in the future.

“We want to give people the ability to experience digitally, something that’s akin to a physical experience that they necessarily can’t be at that place in that time.”

Chapek calls the approach “Next Generation Storytelling,” a third dimension for telling stories and giving customers the most immersive experience possible. Chapek added that the company is still in the beginning stages of developing this experience, but plans are proceeding.

In a separate interview with Variety at the D23 Expo, Chapek hinted of bringing Hulu and Disney+ together.

“You know the term soft bundle and hard bundle, right? Soft bundle is, hey, buy all three services for the low price of X. The hard bundle is when things become seamless, and without friction. Right now if you want to go from Hulu to ESPN+ to Disney+, you have to go out of one app to another app. In the future, we may have less friction (grins).”

But in order to do that, Disney has to buy the rest of the rights of Hulu from Comcast. Currently, that is set to happen in 2024, but when pressed on whether it could come sooner, Chapek said, “It is possible. But that depends on the propensity for the other partner to be willing to have discussions that would bring that to fruition earlier. We would be absolutely willing to do it.”

Chapek also gave a little more insight into the behind-the-scenes drama that unfolded when an activist investor suggested the company sell off ESPN. Chapek said he and Disney’s CFO received “a lot of inquiries” regarding ESPN when Loeb’s suggestion became public, but declined to name specifically who was calling. Chapek reiterated that Disney will be keeping ESPN in-house for the foreseeable future.

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