Disney has announced it's raising the price of its main Disney Plus and Hulu tiers – and it seems Netflix is to blame.
Confirmed in a press release after the company's Q3 2023 earnings call, Disney Plus and Hulu's most expensive subscriptions are going up in price. Disney Plus Premium, which allows users to stream in 4K and watch the service simultaneously on four screens, is rising from $10.99 to $13.99 per month / $109.99 to $139.99 a year in the US (more on UK pricing below). Meanwhile, Hulu without ads will increase from $14.99 to $17.99 a month. The changes will come into affect on October 12.
But it's not all bad news for customers who want to subscribe to two of the world's best streaming services. Beginning September 6, Disney will roll out a new bundle called Duo Premium, which will give customers access to Disney Plus and Hulu's non-ad-supported tiers for $19.99 a month. However, no yearly plan will be available to purchase.
Meanwhile, in the UK, Disney will rebrand its most expensive tier to Disney Plus Premium. Beginning November 1, new users can sign up to this plan for £10.99 a month / £109.90 a year, and gain access to the same features as US subscribers at this tier level. Existing customers will remain on their current subscription, but will have the option to switch to the streamer's Standard (for £7.99 a month / £79.90 a year) or Standard with Ads subscription schemes.
Speaking of the ads-supported tier, Disney will finally roll this out on British shores on November 1, too. Users can sign up to this plan for just £4.99 a month. Unlike the Premium and Standard tiers, though, Disney Plus' ads-supported plan won't let users download the best Disney Plus shows and best Disney Plus movies to watch on the move.
Additionally, Standard and Ads-paying customers will only be able to stream at 1080p and on two devices. The tier supporting ads isn't available as a yearly subscription, either.
Taking the ads-based tier fight to Netflix
Disney's price hikes are sure to anger fans who use one or both of their primary streaming platforms. The entertainment giant only raised the price of Disney Plus in December 2022, so the prospect of paying more – particularly during a cost of living crisis – will be a bitter pill for users to swallow.
Defending the company's decision to raise prices during its Q3 2023 earnings call (thanks to The Motley Fool for the transcript), Disney CEO Bob Iger explained why customers were being asked to pay more. Unfortunately, his answer won't be music to anyone's ears.
"We've raised prices in nearly 50 countries around the world to better reflect the value of our product offerings," Iger said. Sure, people are happy to pay money for top-tier content including The Bear, Guardians of the Galaxy 3, and Avatar 2. But, if viewers don't think they're getting value for money – just look at the universally negative reaction to Secret Invasion, the latest Marvel TV show, for proof of that – Iger's comments will ring hollow and come across as nothing more than a soundbite to appease investors.
Disney will argue, though, that the introduction of its ads-based plan in the UK (and other countries, including Canada, France, and Germany) will give customers a cheaper tier to subscribe to. Keeping its ads-supported tier at just $7.99 per month in the US, too, is Disney's way of ensuring its offering a cost-effective plan to those on a budget.
Even so, I can't help but feel these price increases, plus the roll out of Disney Plus' ads subscription in Canada and Europe, are unwarranted, particularly as families struggle to make ends meet, and the ongoing writers and actors strikes rumble on. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that it's Netflix's fault that Disney has implemented these changes.
We all know that Netflix rolled out its own ads-based plan – dubbed Basic with Ads – in November 2022 as a way of coercing those on a budget to sign up to its platform. As of May 2023 (per The Verge), five million people had opened Netflix accounts on its cheapest plan. That's a tiny fraction of the company's 238 million-strong fanbase, but it proves that Netflix's plan to make its service more affordable (and enticing) to everyone is working.
That's where Disney comes in. The introduction of Disney Plus' ads-based tier – one month after Netflix launched its own scheme, remember – has been viewed as a success by Iger and company. According to Disney's CEO, 40% of new Disney Plus subscribers (in the US) have signed up for its Standard with Ads plan. The total number of users who have joined Disney Plus via its ads-supported subscription stood at 3.3 million by July 1 (i.e. the end of Disney's Q3 2023 period).
Clearly, Disney feels it can convince even more people to fork over their hard-earned cash and open an account on its Standard with Ads tier – that's why it's rolling out the scheme to more nations. After all, if it wasn't successful, why give more users the choice to sign up to this plan? With Disney set to clamp down on password sharing on Disney Plus (and potentially Hulu) soon, offering a cheap plan to new customers will help them boost their userbase significantly, too.
That's all well and good from a business perspective, especially if you're looking to stop bleeding money like Disney has done in recent years. But, if you're not delivering must-see content to subscribers, people won't have an incentive to sign up. Even worse, current users could temporarily or permanently close their accounts.
Like Netflix, then, Disney can't fall into the trap of making substandard films and TV series. It needs to give us great shows like Only Murders in the Building, or excite us with highly anticipated offerings, including the forthcoming Star Wars: Ahsoka and Loki season 2. That'll make its price rises slightly more palatable, even if you and I don't agree with them. If if fails, however, the alternative doesn't bear thinking about – for Disney or for subscribers who stick around and may have to deal with further price increases down the line.
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As TechRadar's senior entertainment reporter, Tom covers all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you need to know about. You'll regularly find him writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and many other topics of interest.
An NCTJ-accredited journalist, Tom also writes reviews, analytical articles, opinion pieces, and interview-led features on the biggest franchises, actors, directors and other industry leaders. You may see his quotes pop up in the odd official Marvel Studios video, too, such as this Moon Knight TV spot.
Away from work, Tom can be found checking out the latest video games, immersing himself in his favorite sporting pastime of football, reading the many unread books on his shelf, staying fit at the gym, and petting every dog he comes across.
Got a scoop, interesting story, or an intriguing angle on the latest news in entertainment? Feel free to drop him a line.