Disney+, ESPN+ & Hulu are all owned by the Walt Disney Company, and are currently operating in several countries… but rumors keep pointing to a possible Disney+ merger in the future. Can this be possible?
Let’s get into it!
History of the Disney Bundle
Hulu launched in 2007, with five shareholders, The Walt Disney Company, Time Warner, Comcast, Providence and 20th Century Fox. The app was one of Netflix’s only competitors until the 2020s.
The app offered content from WarnerMedia (including HBO), NBCUniversal, The Walt Disney Company, 20th Century Fox, among others, until 2019, when Disney had acquired 21st Century Fox, becoming the parent company of Hulu, with Comcast (NBCUniversal) as a “silent” co-owner. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies launched their own streaming services such as HBO Max, Peacock, Paramount+, Discovery+, Disney+, Apple TV+, etc. pulling their content off of both Netflix and Hulu for their own services.
- Warner Bros. Discovery – HBO Max, Discovery+
- NBCUniversal – Peacock
- Paramount – Paramount+
- Apple – Apple TV+
- Walt Disney Company – Disney+, ESPN+, Hulu
- Sony – Crunchyroll
Many years ago, after Disney became the parent company of Hulu, Disney and Comcast made a deal that after their contract expires in early 2024 and a deal is reached, either Disney will purchase Comcast’s remaining 33% stake in Hulu, or Comcast will purchase Disney’s 67% stake in Hulu.
In addition, when Disney+ launched in 2019, Disney began offering content from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, National Geographic, and select titles from 20th Century Studios, ABC channels and ESPN. Disney+ was also offered within a bundle called “The Disney Bundle” which includes Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu, all in one monthly payment. However, like most subscribers, I believe that this is not the most ideal streaming method, and I believe that Disney should merge all three services after 2024.
Disney fans and analysts have been predicting for years that eventually Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu will all merge after the Hulu contract with Comcast expires in 2024. And this could be true, if you put into consideration how many subscribers would then be pushed to subscribe to Disney+ for all the content they’re looking for, instead of only having Hulu for adult content or ESPN for sports. So overall, Disney would really benefit from the merger, with thousands more subscribers joining Disney+ for ALL CONTENT IN ONE, content for everyone.
Content Disney Owns
- Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Disneynature, Disney Channels & Disney Television Animation (Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD), Touchstone Pictures, Touchstone Television, Hollywood Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios, DisneyToon Studios, Marvel Studios, Marvel Entertainment, Marvel Animation, Lucasfilm Ltd, Lucasfilm Animation, National Geographic, Nat Geo Wild, Nat Geo Kids, ABC (Walt Disney Television), ABC News, ABC News Studios, Freeform, 20th Century Studios (including 20th Century Family), 20th Century Animation, 20th Television & 20th Television Animation, Fox 2000 Pictures, Blue Sky Studios, Searchlight Pictures, ESPN, Hulu & Star Originals, Star+ Originals, and Hotstar Originals.
What Could a Merged Disney+ App Look Like?
When Disney+ first launched, only 5 hubs were available on the home page: Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic. However, if Disney+ and Hulu merge in the future, we can definitely expect to see more hubs added to create and promote more organization within the app.
My hub predictions:
- Disney (Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Animation, Disneynature, Disney Channels)
- Pixar (Pixar Animation Studios, DisneyToon Studios)
- Marvel (Marvel Studios, Marvel Entertainment, Marvel Animation)
- Lucasfilm (Star Wars, Willow, Indiana Jones, etc.)
- 20th Century Studios (20th Century Studios, 20th Animation, 20th Television, Blue Sky Studios, Touchstone Pictures)
- Searchlight Pictures (Searchlight Pictures, Searchlight Television)
- National Geographic (Nat Geo, Nat Geo Wild, Nat Geo Kids)
- ABC (ABC, ABC News, Freeform)
- STAR (International Originals, Star and Star+ Originals, Hotstar Originals)
- ESPN (ESPN content, ESPN+ Paid Add-On)
ESPN+ Add-On Option
Globally, many companies offer live sports or other sports content within their streaming services, some as a paid add-on option. In the United States and other countries, HBO Max offers NBA content, Peacock offers Premier League, NFL and WWE content, and Paramount+ offers UEFA Champions League. A few months ago, Paramount+ also started offering a paid add-on option for Showtime, called Paramount+ with Showtime, which I think Disney should take example of. In my opinion, instead of the Disney Bundle, Disney should integrate ESPN+ as a paid add-on through the Disney+ app, similar to Paramount+, but still keep ESPN+ as its own app.
Live Streaming & Live Sports
With an ESPN Add-On, Disney could also incorporate live stream sporting events into the Disney+ app as well. This would be cool to see as other streaming services already utilize live sports, and Disney has already been successful with their global livestreams, including the Elton John Live and TINI concerts a few months ago. Disney could also live stream ABC News, the Oscars, D23 Expo panels, NFL Monday Night Football, and more!
Once Hulu merges with Disney+ in the United States, Disney could introduce the STAR hub to U.S. subscribers, offering international content, Star and Star+ originals, Hotstar originals and more. This would be a new way to organize the app instead of it being used as an “unorganized” tab for content from several studios. In November, Hotstar X started testing in Southeast Asia, planned to be utilized in all countries around the world soon. Hopefully soon Hotstar and Star will be integrated within the United States version.
- Disney+ and Hulu should merge in 2024.
- ESPN+ should be added as a paid add-on.
- Star hub should be introduced in the US.
- More hubs would make the app more organized.
- Disney+ would benefit from live sports and news.
What do you think of the Disney streaming services being merged in the United States? Let me know in the comment section down below! If you would like to stay up-to-date with the latest entertainment news please follow me on Instagram @mattsworldofentertainment and Twitter @mattsworldofet. As always, thanks for reading and I hope to see you all real soon!