Hulu-Disney+ Combo App Exits Beta: Here’s What’s Changed

Hulu on Disney+ has officially rolled out to the public after launching its beta back in December 2023.

As of Wednesday, all bundle subscribers will see the Hulu tile alongside Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic. Subscribers can also access Hulu content via the platform’s “hero carousel,” in recommendations, sets and collections, their watchlist and the search function.

The combined app experience costs the same as the Disney bundle and an additional $2 per month for standalone Disney+ and Hulu subscribers. In addition to the combo app, the two streaming services will continue to be available as standalone offerings.

Courtesy of Disney
Courtesy of Disney

Hulu on Disney+ engagement has “exceeded expectations” across various metrics, including the hours per subscriber and the number of titles they’re watching via the offering, according to Disney Entertainment direct-to-consumer president Joe Earley.

He noted that one in three eligible subscribers have been engaging with the Hulu on Disney+ feature in its beta phase.

“The top viewed titles have been a mix of adult animation, prestige dramas and can’t-miss comedies, all more aligning to Hulu watching as opposed to the Disney+-dominant watching,” Earley told reporters.

What’s changed since the Beta?

The hero carousel has been redesigned to be larger and will now feature a call to action to unlock Hulu content. For standalone Disney+ subscribers, Hulu content on Disney+ will feature the option to upgrade within the app.

Additionally, personalization improvements have been made throughout the combined app that will make content recommendations more relevant based on a subscriber’s usage in real time.

Courtesy of Disney
Courtesy of Disney
Courtesy of Disney
Courtesy of Disney
Courtesy of Disney
Courtesy of Disney

“This marks the most significant technical, operational and product evolution for Disney+ since its launch – one that reflects a wider technology transformation that we have been undertaking,” Disney Entertainment and ESPN president and chief technology officer Aaron LaBerge said in a statement. “That work is going to drive an enhanced, more engaging user experience with Disney+ and lays the foundation for the innovations and enhancements we are planning for the future.”

What content will be included?

The offering features an extensive list of movies, TV series and originals that are currently on Hulu for playback within Disney+.

Content will come from studios including A&E, ABC, ABC News, Adult Swim, Andscape, Aniplex, BBC Studios, Cartoon Network, CBS, Discovery, Disney XD, Fox, Freeform, FX, FYI, HGTV, Hulu Originals, Lifetime, Lionsgate, LMN, Magnolia Pictures, Moonbug, MTV, National Geographic, Nickelodeon, Saban Films, the Samuel Goldwyn Company, Searchlight Pictures, Showtime, Sony Pictures, The History Channel, TLC, TV Land, 20th Century Studios, Vertical and Warner Bros.

However, due to licensing restrictions, some titles from Hulu will not be available in the combo app, such as the ABC sitcom “Modern Family.”

Will Hulu + Live TV and ESPN be included in the combo app?

For the forseeable future, Hulu + Live TV will remain a separate, standalone service, according to Earley.

“Everything that it does as a vMVPD (virtual Multichannel Video Programming Distributor) is so much more complex and intertwined with itself as opposed to the SVOD (Subscription Video On Demand) services, which are now aligned. It has not only the 95 live channels, it has add-ons,” Earley said. “It is a very, very healthy and important part of our DTC (direct-to-consumer) ecosystem, but will remain separate.”

As for ESPN, LaBerge noted that the eventual plan is to integrate the sports network into Disney+ as a tile. Disney is targeting a launch in fall 2025 for its fully direct-to-consumer version of ESPN.

In June, Disney+ and Star+ will be consolidated into one platform in Latin America, which will bring ESPN content into the service in the region, LaBerge added.

How does the offering impact advertising?

The goal of the offering is to increase subscriber convenience, value, engagement and retention, which will in turn benefit advertising.

“When we reduce churn and we have higher engagement, we create more inventory, which turns into advertising monetization for the ad tier,” Earley said. “We’re well above our expectations for the ad revenue generated by it during the beta and it also allows us to extend supply across both platforms.”

When asked about kid-friendly advertisers’ potential concerns about being placed next to more mature content, Earley emphasized that the platform has “robust” parental controls to avoid exposure to younger viewers.

“Advertisers are aware of how seriously we take this and how we have educated people about the content ratings. We’ve had huge uptick during the beta and certainly we expect to see that ramp up,” Earley noted. “On top of that, we do have some content-distancing rules of our own so that where we have human curation, we are ensuring that we are not programming an animated film next to something that is very adult.”

Over 72% of eligible subscribers ages 18+ have set their content ratings to the max maturity setting, giving them access to all Hulu content that will be available on Disney+. Additionally, families have set up more than 5 million secondary profiles since the beta launch.

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