When Disney bought Fox and bought Comcast out of Hulu the industry should have seen this coming. We certainly did. But whether it was expected or not Disney is poised to lead the future of TV. Why? Every single one of its streaming TV properties are growing, even in the face of downcast prospects in its traditional TV channels, most notably ESPN. Disney is playing on every important front now and doing it well. By launching Disney+, a branded service that pulls its content off other services, it consolidated the market for Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and Disney classics into its own neighborhood to the tune of over 70 million subscribers in one year. And its moves with Hulu, which have been assisted by an unpopular price change at YouTube TV are beginning to really show their worth. Not only that, Disney’s $12.99 bundle has led to huge growth across all three of its streaming services in a very short timeframe.
Disney’s strategy on Hulu is already coming into view. And the companies that walked away from it are going to rue the day they went into partnership with the house of mouse. A recent report showed that Hulu with Live TV is now the 5th biggest TV provider in the country. Not too long ago Hulu was owned by four entities, Disney, Comcast, Newscorp (Fox) and Time Warner. Over time all of Disney’s partners decided to go in a different direction leaving Disney in control of a brand that has had over a 10-year head start of the properties that are now trying to compete with it, Peackock and HBO Max. But the big headline about Hulu right now is its live TV offering.
With 4 million live TV subscribers Hulu is the 5th biggest live TV provider in the country and the biggest of the cable replacement services. Its subscriber base puts it ahead of every single regional cable provider in the country. The only companies with more subscribers than Hulu with live TV right now are Comcast, Charter, Dish Network, and AT&T. And here is why it stands to grow bigger. Internet speeds are increasing, cable prices continue to rise, people are continuing to be tight with their money and more so because Hulu with Live TV is not bound by any kind of regional deal. Your local cable company probably is not even available as an option where I live unless you are a Charter Cable subscriber. But Anybody anywhere can sign up for Hulu as long as they have a high-speed Internet connection.
For Disney Hulu as a service is a two birds with one stone sort of grenade in the streaming world. And not only does it have the leading VMVPD service in the country it also has the third and fourth most popular on-demand or (SVOD) services in the industry as well. Disney+ has soared to over 70 million subscribers in just one year. With Hulu’s 36 million subscribers Disney has 106 million streaming subscribers and it hasn’t even made a fully realized international push yet.
Whether the people who got Disney+ for free via phone service deals hold on to the service going forward will have a lot to say about those numbers but Hulu’s SVOD offering which is a perfect complement to the Live TV package. And for some people, Hulu’s inexpensive ad-supported service pretty much does the job for providing major network TV on a weekly basis even without a live TV service. The only major broadcast network content it doesn’t offer is current content from CBS and even then it provides tons of CBS series.
And despite ESPN dealing with the transformation of the pay-TV world It’s still Disney’s biggest calling card in the linear TV industry and no other company has anything even close. Every single provider in the country may as well be required by law to carry ESPN and its family of networks. Even though there is a market for bundles without sports any regional provider would be hard-pressed to advertise and say everything you want except ESPN. That means that every company competing with Hulu for customers has to buy ESPN from Disney in order to do so. Just let this all sink in. Disney has the TV content that almost every single cable and live streaming bundler wants to offer, It has the control of the most powerful franchise in the entertainment industry, the MCU and it has unlimited growth potential as a nation-wide TV provider with the ability to cross-promote the service during the NBA Finals, The College Football playoffs, during prime time network TV broadcasts and via Disney+. We have a feeling Disney is not done making moves either. So stay tuned