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How Does Hulu Fit Into Disney’s Overall Streaming Plans?

Jeff Kotuby

The Disney Bundle factored heavily into Disney’s Q3 2021 earnings presentation, with many execs within the company referencing the “power of the Disney Bundle” numerous times throughout the presentation. As it stands right now, the Disney Bundle consists of Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu.

We know Disney’s future plans with Disney+ and ESPN+, so where does that leave Hulu?

Hulu had a nice Q3 2021, improving to 42.8 million total subs (up 21 percent from last year) and adding 1.2 million subs. The SVOD service is also more profitable than in the past, at it now nets Disney $13.15 per subscriber per month, thanks in part to increased ad revenue and add-ons. According to data provided by Parrot Analytics, Hulu also has the most platform demand shares, meaning users want to watch Hulu’s content more than any other service — even Netflix. But why? Parrot might have just said it best: “Hulu isn’t Disney+. Hulu is a collection of everything for someone and something for everyone.”

But a “jack of all trades” is a “master of none,” so while Hulu has a bit of something for everyone, it seems to only serve as an alternative to Disney+. Disney+, is, of course, a destination for family films, first-party Marvel Studios content, and the place where you watch Hamilton. For Hulu to be the destination known for housing “everything else that Disney owns and some other non-exclusive licensed content, too,” elicits an image of a cluttered storage unit full of stuff. There are plenty of incredible shows and movies available on Hulu, but you have to dig to find them if your picks haven’t already been curated. Hulu’s perpetually awkward user interface does not help matters, either.

But, it’s that non-exclusive, licensed content that powers Hulu. Fox and FX properties like The Simpsons, American Horror Story, and Family Guy, along with shows that are featured on multiple platforms like Modern Family and Rick & Morty, and the occasional big-time linear show like Law & Order: SVU or Will & Grace are what continues to make Hulu enticing and what made streaming services so popular in the first place — a destination to find all your favorite shows in one place.

What people aren’t totally into, though, are Hulu’s Originals, which presents a big problem as more streaming services splurge on original content. Hulu Originals make up just 7.2 percent of all digital original demand share, a far cry from the domination of its extended catalog and dwarfed by Netflix’s 46 percent share. Shows like The Handmaid’s Tale and the newly-released Reservation Dogs have been critical successes, but in a world where they have to compete with their own parent company’s power-packed originals like Loki, The Mandolorian, and Falcon and The Winter Soldier, that might not be enough. Should Hulu start to lose its non-exclusive licensed shows, they may be in for big problems in the future.

So why doesn’t Disney just fold Hulu into Disney+? In Canada and other nations, content along the lines of what can be found on Hulu is available under an additional tab within Disney+ called Star or Star+.

Well, outside of the myriad rights issues and Comcast’s pesky stake in the company, it has a lot to do with Hulu’s live TV component. Hulu Live TV lost 100,000 subs, but still sits at about 3.7 million active subscribers, making it the most populated live TV streaming service out there. The broadcast companies that currently partner with Hulu Live TV likely wouldn’t like their networks blocked by a Disney paywall and would likely prefer they keep the service under the Hulu name.

For now, it looks like Disney won’t be able to pull a Star+ with Hulu — nor should it.

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 USD 5.99 a month, or you can upgrade to their No Ads plan for USD 11.99 a month. For USD 64.99 a month, you can get Hulu Live TV from major cable channels, live locals and regional sports networks.

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