Disney is planning to launch a new 'general entertainment' streaming service internationally in 2021. It will be built on the same technology as Disney Plus, and closely integrate with the service. Instead of being called Hulu, though, which is the name of Disney's existing US general streaming service, it'll be named Star – named after a successful Indian brand that Disney already owns.
"I'm also pleased to announce we plan to launch an international, direct-to-consumer general entertainment offering under the Star brand, in calendar year 2021," said CEO Bob Chapek in an earnings call this week. It was explained that this service would house content made by ABC Studios, Fox TV, FX, Freeform, Searchlight and 20th Century. No specific territory launches were mentioned, but we'd assume 'international' could mean anywhere outside the US.
Those content providers make a lot of stuff, and it means this new service could feasibly include everything from Grey's Anatomy to Family Guy and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, to movies like the Alien series or The Shape of Water. Chapek was later asked about why the decision was made to brand this service with Star, and not Hulu. He gave a lengthy answer which offered a little more context on what the service will be.
"In terms of the general entertainment offering internationally, we want to mirror our successful Disney Plus strategy by using our Disney Plus technical platform, rooting it in content that we already own, and distributing it under a successful international brand we also already own – which is of course Star – and then bringing it to market in a very close association to Disney."
Our best guess is that Star would be offered in a bundle with Disney Plus for a discount, much as Hulu and ESPN+ are available with the service in the US. This would give Disney a bigger footprint in the streaming wars beyond the relative specificity of Disney Plus' remit.
"In terms of your being surprised this isn't being launched under a different brand name," Chapek continued. "I think it's important to look at the differences in how we plan on going into the market, and the first thing is, Hulu aggregates third-party content, where this will not.
"This will be rooted in our own content, from ABC Studios, Fox TV, FX, Freeform, Searchlight and 20th Century. And Hulu, also I must say, has no brand awareness outside the US. And nor does Hulu have any content that's been licensed to it internationally. So this gives us the ability to market it under the Disney umbrella, and have synergies with our existing platform. So that's our basic rationale."
No specific territories were mentioned for the Star streaming service. Disney now has 100 million paid streaming customers in total.
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Does Disney need another streaming service?
This answers some of the questions around what's going to happen to content Disney owns that it deems too adult or unsuitable for Disney Plus.
If it's reasonably priced, particularly as part of a bundle that could rival Netflix's monthly offering, we could see a more adult-focused service being a viable upgrade for those who already enjoy using Disney Plus.
That, ultimately, is the goal here – to get people to spend more on Disney-owned direct-to-consumer content in a rapidly-changing media landscape.