Disney to Offer Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu bundle 

As the November 12 launch date approaches, Disney has revealed more details of its Disney+ streaming service. During this quarter’s investors call, Robert A. Iger, chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, announced that in addition to the new streaming service it will offer a bundle that includes Disney+, ESPN+, and ad-supported Hulu for $13 per month (a savings of $5 compared with subscribing to each service separately.) The package will run the gamut from family entertainment and sports to current TV shows and original series aimed at an adult audience.

The idea for Disney+ is to offer a variety of programming that will appeal to the whole family. Hulu adds general entertainment with on-demand current TV programs, as well as originals aimed at mature audiences, including The Handmaid’s Tale, 11.22.63, and Harlots.

ESPN+ rounds out the bundle with sports. Though not the same as the ESPN cable channel, the service enables live streaming of select games from MLB, MLS, PGA golf, FA Cup, EFL, and NHL. Tennis from Wimbledon, the US Open and Australian Open will also be available, along with UFC fights, rugby, cricket, and some college games. Live sports will be supplemented with studio programs and original shows like Detail with Peyton Manning, LeBron's More Than an Athlete, Ariel and the Bad Guy, ESPN FC, and In the Crease — all exclusive to the ESPN+ app. The app also makes available out-of-market baseball and hockey games for those who subscribe to MLB.tv or NHL.tv.

21st Century Fox Content Ups the Appeal
The acquisition of 21st Century Fox has made the Disney+ offering more appealing than it was when first announced last year. Iger said in a March press release, “Combining Disney’s and 21st Century Fox’s wealth of creative content and proven talent creates the preeminent global entertainment company, well positioned to lead in an incredibly dynamic and transformative era.” The list of 21st Century Fox classics will be a welcome addition to the Disney+ streaming library. Movies like The Sound of Music and The Princess Bride will become available to stream during the first year.

When Disney purchased Fox, it acquired a large library of popular and classic films and TV shows and gave Disney a 60% majority share in Hulu. Plans are in place for Disney to obtain total ownership of Hulu. In April, AT&T sold back Time Warner’s 10% stake. Comcast announced in May that it has agreed to cede its control to Disney, and will sell its 33% stake in Hulu by 2024.

First Year Preview
In its first year, Disney+ will launch with 300 movie titles including 18 Pixar features and 70 from the Disney Animation Vault.

Many of the Disney+ streaming titles were announced in April and as November approaches, we are hearing more details. By the time Disney+ launches, it will ultimately be the only way to stream Star Wars, Marvel and Pixar movies, as well as Disney films.

Eight Star Wars movies will be available to stream from day one — The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi along with The Force Awakens and Rogue One. The Last Jedi, Solo and The Rise of Skywalker will be added during the first year.

Although the Avengers movies are best watched in order, Disney has announced a curious schedule of when each movie will be available to stream on Disney+. Marvel movies available at launch will include Captain Marvel, Thor: The Dark World, Iron Man and Iron Man 3. Iron Man 2 and Avengers: Infinity War will be released sometime later in the first year, yet the final Avengers movie, Avengers: Endgame, has a release date of December 11, only one month after launch of Disney+. Ant-man and the Wasp, Black Panther, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Thor: Ragnorak and Guardians of the Galaxy are also scheduled to be released over the first year. Marvel fans will likely enjoy rewatching their favorites. Those who haven’t seen the series of films would do best to wait until the end of the year when most films will have become available to stream, so they may be watched in order.

It’s not that Disney isn’t aware of the inter-relationship of the films. In fact, the company is capitalizing on the way the different titles’ storylines are interwoven by releasing its original Marvel series Wandavision in May 2021, just as the film Doctor Strange: In the Multiverse of Madness is released in theaters. The series will provide important backstory for the movie, as the Scarlet Witch character, played by Elizabeth Olsen, and Paul Bettany as Vision are featured in the series and will also be part of the Doctor Strange film sequel.

4K Content in the Mix
Disney has stated that there will be 4K HDR content. But there is still no indication of which titles will be offered, if they will be part of the bundle, or if they will belong to a premium service. While ad-supported Hulu will be included in the bundle, there is no word about a premium bundle that could add commercial-free Hulu or Hulu Live TV.

The Disney+ website indicates that the service will include unlimited downloads and “deliver your favorite entertainment to smart TVs, phones, laptops, tablets, and gaming consoles.” In April, Disney mentioned that Roku TVs and Playstation 4 will support Disney+ streaming. According to Iger, the bundle will likely be available through Amazon Fire TV, Apple, and other distributors.

He told investors, “We feel it’s important for us to achieve scale quickly, and we think it’s (getting it onto the most popular platforms) going to be an important part of that. They’re all interested in distributing the product.” While Disney is committed, there has not been any official announcement of finalized deals of what devices will carry the streaming bundle.