In Streaming Milestone, Disney And Warner Bros. Discovery Team On Bundle Featuring Disney+, Hulu And Max

Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery are breaking ground in streaming with a bundled offering featuring Disney+, Hulu and Max.

The companies are aiming to launch the bundle this summer. The exact launch date and the price point have not yet been announced, but plans call for both ad-free and ad-supported versions to be available.

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The move creates the first cross-company partnership for any of the top-tier services to come to market as the race to catch up with Netflix began in earnest about five years ago. It follows years of speculation and public musings by top executives about when bundling across the industry might reduce friction and begin to make streaming more cost-efficient for programmers and consumers alike. Pay-TV operators long served as third-party bundlers in the cable age, but while distribution deals with the likes of Roku and Amazon are key to any streaming service gaining traction, it’s mostly every-app-for-itself in the streaming era.

Churn, the industry term for the number of canceled subscriptions in a given period, has been a nagging problem for media companies. For decades, they had grown accustomed to the far more stable patterns of pay-TV, which was built on a foundation of long-term contracts and physical equipment. In the realm of direct-to-consumer internet businesses, a tap of an app can vaporize revenue, one of the many reasons why companies have been looking more closely at bundling, especially with cord-cutting ravaging their pay-TV network holdings.

Viewers, meanwhile, complain of a dizzying landscape of apps and titles filling their screens, making the simple act of finding something to watch a grueling process. The “endless scroll” of Netflix and later imitators has amplified Bruce Springsteen’s fabled lament about “57 channels and nothin’ on.”

Within companies, synergistic bundling has been commonplace for several years, with Disney in the vanguard with its successful troika of Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+. Many players are taking the next step and more fully consolidating services. Max last year rebranded from HBO Max and added Discovery+ programming. Disney has been steadily bringing its flanker services into closer alignment with flagship Disney+, adding a Hulu tile to Disney+ earlier this year and planning an ESPN one later this year.

In yet another sign of the times, Paramount+ and Showtime’s streaming service fully merged in 2023. Paramount Global’s recent travails and efforts to finalize a potential merger have also been accompanied by speculation that Paramount+ would be ripe for the kind of bundle announced by Disney and WBD. Comcast and Paramount had held talks about a Peacock-P+ combo, but those discussions reportedly faltered due to disputes over control.

Disney, despite rolling up all of Hulu in a buyout of Comcast’s one-third stake in recent months, has shown increased interest in joint ventures. It recently teamed with Fox Corp. and WBD on a sports-focused streaming bundle. That still-unnamed service, nicknamed “Spulu,” is due to launch this fall.

Brands to be showcased in the new Disney-WBD bundle include ABC, CNN, DC, Discovery, Disney, Food Network, FX, HBO, HGTV, Hulu, Marvel, Pixar, Searchlight and Warner Bros. The new offering will be available for purchase on any of the three streaming platforms’ websites.

“On the heels of the very successful launch of Hulu on Disney+, this new bundle with Max will offer subscribers even more choice and value,” said Joe Earley, President, Direct to Consumer, Disney Entertainment. “This incredible new partnership puts subscribers first, giving them access to blockbuster films, originals, and three massive libraries featuring the very best brands and entertainment in streaming today.”

“This new offering delivers for consumers the greatest collection of entertainment for the best value in streaming, and will help drive incremental subscribers and much stronger retention,” said JB Perrette, CEO and President, Global Streaming and Games, Warner Bros. Discovery. “Offering this unprecedented entertainment value for fans across all the complimentary genres these three services offer, presents a powerful new roadmap for the future of the industry.”

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