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How Does the New Disney+/Hulu Bundle Compare to Max and Other Hybrid Apps?

Not all media mergers are alike, but Disney seems to be taking some cues from Warner Bros. Discovery.
  • A new Hulu/Disney+ hybrid app will soon join the ranks of Max and Paramount+ with Showtime. (Photo: Hulu; Disney+; Jeff Kravitz/Warner Bros. Discovery; Paramount+)
    A new Hulu/Disney+ hybrid app will soon join the ranks of Max and Paramount+ with Showtime. (Photo: Hulu; Disney+; Jeff Kravitz/Warner Bros. Discovery; Paramount+)

    The streaming media mergers just keep coming. Disney CEO Bob Iger announced during an earnings call on Wednesday that Hulu and Disney+ content will soon be combined into the same app. Iger said the new app, which the company aims to debut by the end of 2023, will “provide greater opportunities for advertisers, while giving bundle subscribers access to more robust and streamlined content, resulting in greater audience engagement and ultimately leading to a more unified streaming experience.”

    If it sounds similar to Max, the HBO Max/Discovery+ hybrid debuting on May 23, it’s because it kind of is. Users will only need to log into one platform to get access to all Hulu, Disney+, and ESPN+ content available on streaming. But unlike Max, which will automatically give current HBO Max subscribers access to the extended Discovery+ library whether they are subscribed to that platform or not, this new service will require users to pay specifically for the bundle or subscribe separately to get access to all three (standalone Hulu, Disney+, and ESPN+ subscriptions will still be available.) In that way, the deal is more closely aligned with the tiers offered through the merger between Paramount+ and Showtime: Paramount+ and Showtime are still available as standalone services, but the very uncreatively named Paramount+ with Showtime bundles both.

    And as with both Max and Paramount+ with Showtime, there will be casualties. Both Hulu and Disney+’s libraries will be slimmed down, Disney CFO Christine McCarthy revealed on this week’s earnings call, noting that this cost-cutting measure aligns with “strategic changes in our approach to content curation.” Another part of that approach is to simply make less original content in 2024 and 2025. When it comes to culling existing shows, Disney will be targeting titles with low viewership but high costs in the form of residuals, royalties, and music licensing fees (no specific shows or movies were cited on the call). Iger described the moves as growing pains: “This is part of the maturation process as we grow into a business that we had never been in.”

    The pricing structure is also changing; Iger said the cost of the ad-free tier will increase by the end of 2023. Right now, a standalone Hulu with ads subscription is $7.99 per month; a bundle of Hulu and Disney+ with ads is $9.99 per month; a bundle of Hulu, Disney+, and ESPN+ with ads is $12.99 per month; and all three with no ads is $19.99. That final tier is currently on par with Max’s new Ultimate plan, which offers the combined HBO Max and Discovery+ libraries plus 4K video (for some content), four concurrent streams, and 100 offline downloads at $19.99 per month. Paramount+ with Showtime lands in the middle at $11.99 per month.

    At this point, Peacock and Netflix are two of the only major streaming services that aren’t yet bundled or partnered with another service’s original programming (Prime Video and Apple TV+, for instance, offer paid subscriptions to other streaming service’s channels and content). But these services have undergone significant changes this year as well — Peacock ditched its free tier in January, and Netflix cracked down on account sharing and announced the end of its at-home DVD delivery service come September.

    Brianna Wellen is a TV Reporter at Primetimer who became obsessed with television when her parents let her stay up late to watch E.R. 

    TOPICS: Disney+, Discovery+, HBO Max, Hulu, Max, Paramount+, Showtime, Warner Bros. Discovery