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Activist Investor Pushes Disney to Merge Disney+ and Hulu, Spin Off ESPN Into Separate Company

Sydney Jochum

Should Disney fold Hulu into Disney+ and spin off ESPN and ESPN+ into a separate company? One activist investor thinks so.

Dan Loeb, founder of the hedge fund Third Point, wrote a letter to Disney CEO Bob Chapek, urging him to make those changes. This isn't the first time Loeb has called for changes in the Disney streaming universe.

A Hulu-Disney+ Merger?

It’s widely anticipated that Disney+ will eventually absorb Hulu, but that deal likely won’t happen until 2024. Comcast still owns 33% of Hulu, and Disney would have to pay a premium to buy them out. Loeb is encouraging Disney to make “every effort” to close the deal sooner.

“It would even be prudent for Disney to pay a modest premium to accelerate the integration,” Loeb wrote. “We know this is a priority for (Disney) and hope there is a deal to be had before Comcast is contractually obligated to do so in about 18 months.”

“We believe that integrating Hulu directly into the Disney+ DTC platform will provide significant cost and revenue synergies, ultimately reigniting growth in the domestic market,” Loeb wrote.

Hulu and Hulu Live TV have a combined 46.2 million subscribers. Disney+ has over 152 million subscribers. Disney’s recent content decisions make it seem as if the company is trying to erode Hulu's standalone value, which will make Disney’s ultimate bill a lot lower when the deal with Comcast ends in 2024.

Should Disney Exit Sports?

ESPN has always been sort of an odd fit for Disney. For nearly a year, the company has been trying to decide whether to spin off the property entirely. Loeb pushed for that option in his letter.

“ESPN would have greater flexibility to pursue business initiatives that may be more difficult as part of Disney, such as sports betting,” Loeb wrote. “Customers of ESPN and sports leagues would be better served by a focused management team driving a leadership position in sports distribution.”

Given ESPN’s importance in the sports landscape, it is one of the crown jewels of TV that can still drive live viewership. Perhaps the question is whether Disney fans would be upset at losing access to sports as part of the Disney Bundle.

Disney’s Response

“We welcome the views of all our investors,” Disney said in a statement. “As our third quarter results demonstrate, The Walt Disney Company continues to deliver strong financial results powered by world-class storytelling and our unique and highly valuable content creation and distribution ecosystem.”

The corporation added, “Under the leadership of Bob Chapek, the company has delivered this strong performance while navigating the Covid-19 pandemic and its aftermath, including record streaming subscriptions. We have seen strong revenue and profit growth.”

While the Hulu merger is all but certain, the only question is when that occurs. All signs point to Disney running out the clock until 2024. As for ESPN, Chapek seems unlikely to give up control of such a prominent property, but if he’s merely looking to juice the stock performance, it might be an option down the road.

  • Disney+

    Disney+ es un servicio sin anuncios servicio de vídeo en streaming que ofrece series y películas exclusivas de Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic y mucho más. Disney ha revelado que su servicio de transmisión llegará el 17 de noviembre de 2020.

    El precio del servicio en streaming de Disney será US$ 7.49 / mes o US$ 74.99 / año (US$ 6.25 / mes).

    La aplicación tendrá una calidad de 4K en streaming, descargas ilimitadas, 4 visiones simultáneas, hasta perfiles, con cientos de avatares para tu perfil personal.

    El primer año se añadirán 25 películas nuevas originales, más de 10 películas, 7 500 episodios de series de televisión, 100 películas nuevas y 400 títulos del catálogo completo de Disney Vault. Además, estarán disponibles nuevos lanzamientos como Toy story 4, El rey león y Aladín; así como, clásicos como La sirenita y Cenicienta.

    La compañía ha anunciado varias series y películas originales que estarán disponibles para el lanzamiento, como The Mandalorian, el spin-off de Star Wars con 8 episodios por el valor de 100 millones de dólares, High School Musical: El Musical, El mundo según Jeff Goldblum y La dama y el vagabundo.

    Puedes ver la lista completa de series y películas consultando Disney, Disney Channel, Star Wars, Pixar, Marvel, Nat Geo o todo el contenido disponible de Disney Plus en Disney+ Streaming Movie List.

    Pruébalo sin Costo

    Consigue Disney+ por Sólo US$ 6.25. Cuando Eliges el Plan Anual.

  • 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 and Fox, and cable channels like FXX, FXM, HGTV, and more.

    The service has a Limited Commercials plan for US$ 7.99 a month, or you can upgrade to their No Ads plan for US$ 14.99 a month. For US$ 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 US$ 9.99 / mes per month or annually for US$ 99.99 / año.

    You will get a daily out-of-market game from MLB, and every out-of-market NHL with NHL Power Play (previously NHL.TV). For NFL Fans, they have an exclusive NFL game, and simulcast select Monday Football games.

    The service has some of the most attractive soccer coverage including Bundesliga, LaLiga, FA Cup, UEFA Nations League, EFL Championship, EFL Carabao Cup, Eredevise and more.

    College sports fans will be able to watch thousands of games and events including football, basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, track & field, gymnastics, swimming & diving, lacrosse, wrestling, volleyball, golf, and more.

    For boxing and UFC fans, the service offers Top Rank boxing and will be the home of 15 exclusive UFC events.

    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 y 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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