Disney is moving forward with its family-targeted streaming platform Disney+, but after acquiring 21st Century Fox, the entertainment giant has also gained a majority interest in Hulu and Disney has major plans for that service as well.
In a recent investors call, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced plans to expand the streamer internationally and to crank up the volume of original content. Hulu is technically losing about $1 billion a year, but Iger wants to position the streaming service as more direct competition to Netflix which is currently offered on a global scale and that is its largest area of growth, as domestic subscriptions have slowed significantly. (Mainly because most everyone who is going to, has already subscribed.)
As Iger said on the call:
“Given the success of Hulu so far in terms of subscriber growth and the relative brand strength and other things too like demographics, we think there’s an opportunity to increase investment in Hulu notably on the programming side.”
With Netflix’s international growth, it has invested heavily in creating original content for those specific regions, for example, ‘Dark’, the German sci-fi thriller which has actually earned a sizable following in the US. Whether or not Hulu plans to follow the same path is currently unknown, as Iger indicated that those conversations will take place once Disney takes over controlling interest, which will probably occur sometime next year.
“After the deal closes and after we have the 60 percent ownership, we’ll meet with the Hulu management team and the board, and discuss what the opportunities are in terms of both global growth and investing more in content. But that’s something that we have to do after the deal closes.”
In a related note, the European Union has passed a regulation on streaming services like Netflix, insisting that they devote 30% of their programming to European content.
Once the Disney/Fox merger is complete in 2019, Disney will hold 60% interest in Hulu. NBCUniversal still owns 30%, while WarnerMedia owns 10% and according to Iger, Disney has no intention of buying them out, preferring to retain those partnerships.
On a fandom level, perhaps it’s Disney’s acquisition of controlling interest in Hulu that may better explain why Netflix is cancelling some of their Marvel-based shows, as a means of cutting ties with their new competitor. Hulu may also open a new outlet for Disney to continue ‘Luke Cage’ and ‘Iron Fist’ if it wants to. Those violent R-rated programs are not a fit for Disney+, but could blend in just fine alongside ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ and other more adult-skewing content.