It's official: Disney is taking complete ownership of Hulu. As we reported earlier this year, that means it'll be able to create a super-streamer to take on rivals such as Netflix – and for US consumers it means your Disney Plus experience will most likely become much like it is in the rest of the world, with a single Disney app providing access to all of the Mouse House's streaming irrespective of which company it comes from. Outside the US, Hulu originals such as Only Murders In The Building are delivered in the Disney Plus app via Disney Plus Star, which is included in the Disney Plus price.
Disney has been a part owner of Hulu for some time, but 33% of the streamer was owned by Comcast. And now Disney is buying that share too, for a cool $8.61 billion. As Disney puts it, the acquisition "will further Disney's streaming objectives."
What would the Disney acquisition of Hulu mean for streaming?
If the deal goes through – it isn't a done deal just yet, and the $8.61 billion figure may increase based on third party assessments of Hulu's value – then there are two possible options. The first is that Disney will fold Hulu into the Disney Plus app, making that service your one-stop service for all kinds of movies and shows. But the second option is much juicier (though perhaps not actually more appealing).
According to Variety, a long-held theory on Wall Street is that the reason Hulu isn't available outside the US is because Disney's been trying to keep its value down until it was able to buy up the remaining share – and once that share became Disney's, it would be free to launch Hulu "as a general-entertainment service worldwide". For now, though, the former seems most likely: back in May, Disney CEO Bob Iger described the firm's plans to include Hulu content in a "unified streaming experience".
Don't expect any announcements any time soon, or at all – we reached out to Disney back in May to clarify whether Disney Plus would absorb Hulu or keep it separate, and what effect it would have in non-US regions, and Disney declined to comment.
One thing that is clear is that the move could be bad news for Netflix, which is facing increased competition not just from Disney but from services such as the new-look Max. They don't have the subscriber numbers that Netflix does, but something like merging Hulu into Disney Plus for an aggressive price could make that upgraded service even more of a must-have than Netflix is.
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Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.