It’s finally happening. After months of rumors, followed by an actual announcement, a combined app with content from Disney+ and Hulu will launch in beta status in December 2023, ahead of an official launch in the spring.
And, well, that’s really all we have at the moment. Disney CEO Bob Iger dropped the news on the company’s fiscal fourth-quarter earnings call on November 8. (The company ends its fiscal year on September 30.)
“We remain on track to roll out the more unified one-app experience domestically,” Iger said on the call, “making extensive general-entertainment content available to subscribers via Disney Plus … We will launch a beta version for bundled subscribers in December, giving parents time to set up profiles and parental controls that work best for their families, ahead of the official launch in spring 2024.
“We feel really good about that,” Iger said of the combined app during the call’s Q&A session. “I saw some demos of that basically yesterday, as a matter of fact. In late March we’ll launch it basically in full form.”
Iger didn’t immediately give any details on how that beta rollout would work, given that the various platforms have various methods of beta testing. (Or, for that matter, we don’t know if the combination will be some sort of opt-in feature for Disney Bundle subscribers, or if it would require a new app. That last part is unlikely.) That time between beta and full launch also gives Disney time to close out the acquisition of the rest of Hulu after finally purchasing Comcast’s stake in the streaming service.
On its own, Disney+ finished the fiscal year with 46.5 million subscribers in the U.S. and Canada. Hulu’s on-demand total closed out at 43.9 million subscribers. It’s not known how much of that is overlap via the Disney Bundle, though. But look for an even bigger push toward the bundle, which is how subscribers will be able to get that combined Disney+/
Also, expect to see a continued push toward ad-supported tiers. Netflix, which also has the same scheme, has flat-out said that it makes more money on tiers with ads than it does on the tiers that don’t have ads. Iger said that approximately 2 million subscribers joined an ad-supported tier in the fourth quarter, and more than 50% of new subscribers chose a tier with advertising.
And in the past six months, subscribers who are on a tier with ads spent 34% more time watching the service.
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