Streaming giants Hulu and Disney+ are joining forces — and it could cost audiences.
Disney CEO Bob Iger announced changes to the company during Disney’s Q2 earnings call on Wednesday. The company plans to create a “one-app experience” and increase the subscription fee for the ad-free plan.
“While we continue to offer Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ as standalone options, this is a logical progression of our DTC (direct-to-consumer) offerings that 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,” Iger said during the earnings call.
“Meanwhile, the pricing changes we’ve already implemented have proven successful, and we plan to set a higher price for our ad-free tier later this year to better reflect the value of our content offerings,” Iger added.
Disney has not revealed how much it plans to increase subscription fees for the ad-free tier or how much a subscription will cost once the streaming services are bundled into a single app. Last year, the company raised the cost of ad-free subscriptions to $10.99 per month. It also introduced an ad-supported tier, which costs $7.99 per month, The Verge reported.
Iger said that the bundled app will be available later this year and to expect more details “in the future.”
Disney+ lost millions of subscribers
Disney’s plan to merge Hulu and Disney+ comes amid a nearly 9% drop in Disney shares and a loss of 4 million Disney+ subscribers.
Disney+ survived the massive loss in subscribers by ticking up its subscription fees, but it is a solution that won’t last, said Paul Verna, principal analyst at research firm Insider Intelligence, per CNBC.
“While Disney managed to stem its streaming revenue losses, it did so mainly by raising prices, and that strategy is not sustainable in the long term,” Verna wrote. “Disney plans another price hike later this year, but it will soon run out of headroom for further increases.”
HBO Max will merge with Warner Bros. Discovery
Earlier this year, HBO Max unveiled Max — a streaming service with content from Warner Bros. Discovery, such as the Food Network, TLC and HGTV, HBO reported. Subscription fees will remain the same as HBO Max makes the transition to Max.
Some of the changes to the streaming service include: improved performance, smarter recommendations, new content and a new subscription option, per HBO.
The new subscription plan — the Ultimate ad-free plan — costs either $19.99 per month or $199.99 per year. It offers more offline downloads and better streaming quality, per HBO.
HBO Max will officially become Max on May 23.
Affordable streaming options
Subscribing to all of the available streaming platforms is costly — especially as platforms crack down on password sharing.
Several platforms, such as Hulu and Netflix, offer cheaper monthly fees supported by ads.
The most expensive streaming platform is Netflix, with the basic package starting at $9.99 per month, while the cheapest platform is Apple TV+, which costs subscribers $4.99 per month.
Streaming bundles offer a more affordable way to subscribe to multiple platforms at once. Here are a few of the best ones.
For $9.99 per month, subscribers get Hulu, Disney+ and ESPN+. There is also an option to get just Hulu and Disney+ without ESPN+.
This bundle gives viewers access to loads of content, such as Pixar, Marvel, “Star Wars,” reality TV and live sports.
For $19.99, viewers can get the same package without ads.
With Sling, a live TV option, you can subscribe to the blue package (sports and family) or the orange package (news and entertainment) for $40 per month. For $55 per month you can have both packages.
Sling offers access to channels like TBS, ESPN, Disney, CNN and TNT.
Paramount+ with Showtime
For $11.99, this package gives you all of Showtime without ads — that means access to Showtime originals like “Your Honor,” “The Chi” and “Yellowjackets.” It also gives you access to a wide range of movies.
On Paramount+, subscribers can watch fan-favorites, originals and new movies such as “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Scream VI.”
It’s a little pricier, but it provides subscribers with access to 100 local, cable and regional sports channels, as well as YouTube Originals and hundreds of movies. It costs $72.99 per month.
For an additional $29.99 per month, subscribers get the entertainment package, which includes a subscription to HBO Max, Showtime and Starz.