Disney has made an announcement outlining its intentions to merge content from its Disney+ and Hulu streaming services in the United States.
The decision comes in response to Disney+ experiencing a loss of four million subscribers in the first quarter of the year, placing pressure on the company to make its streaming business financially viable. The plan involves creating a unified “one-app experience” that combines Hulu and Disney+ content.
Initial reactions from current subscribers have been mixed, with concerns raised on social media about potential increases in subscription fees when the app launches later this year. Disney has clarified that Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ will also remain available as separate services. Hulu, jointly owned by Disney and NBCUniversal, is known for its adult-oriented television shows such as “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Disney CEO Bob Iger disclosed that discussions have been held with Comcast, the parent company of NBC, regarding full control of Hulu once the current ownership agreement expires next year.
The goal is to combine general entertainment with Disney+, and if Hulu is deemed to be the solution, Disney is optimistic about its prospects. Since his return to Disney, Iger has focused on improving the company’s financial performance, particularly with Disney+. Losses in the streaming business amounted to $659 million in the first quarter, down from $1.1 billion in the previous quarter.
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However, the decline in subscribers was more significant than anticipated, resulting in a roughly 5% drop in the company’s stock during after-hours trading in New York. The majority of the losses were attributed to the Hotstar service in Asia, which lost streaming rights to Indian cricket matches last year.
Additionally, Disney+ experienced a loss of approximately 300,000 customers in the United States and Canada following a subscription price increase.
Mr Iger said the improved financial performance reflected “the strategic changes we’ve been making throughout the company to realign Disney for sustained growth and success.”
He previously said Disney+ had reached a “turning point” and would become profitable by next year.
Earlier this year, the prominent entertainment company witnessed a decline in streaming subscribers, prompting them to announce plans to reduce their workforce by 7,000 jobs.
The recent announcement coincides with a strike by thousands of Hollywood TV and film screenwriters, marking the first strike in 15 years. The writers are advocating for improved pay and working conditions as the streaming era disrupts the traditional television and film industry.
The previous writers’ strike occurred in 2007 and lasted for 100 days, resulting in an estimated $2 billion loss for the industry.
During a recent discussion, Disney’s Chief Financial Officer Christine McCarthy declined to provide an exact estimate of the potential cost to the company due to the ongoing strike.
The strike has already led to the suspension of several Disney projects, including those intended for release on Disney+.
In recent years, Disney has invested substantial funds in its streaming platforms, transforming itself from a company primarily focused on traditional television, movies, and theme parks into a significant player in the streaming industry.
Currently, the company boasts a combined total of over 231 million subscriptions across its three streaming platforms, which include ESPN+ for sports content and Hulu for broader entertainment offerings.
While Disney+ has amassed nearly 158 million subscribers worldwide, it still trails behind its competitor Netflix, which has 232.5 million subscribers.