Hulu+Live TV Boosts Disney's Streaming Business

Making virtual pay TV a better deal continues to be a mystery. But Disney, for one, isn’t taking it lying down.

It is raising the price of Hulu+Live TVto $69.99 from $64.99. But it is also adding Disney+ and ESPN+ to the deal -- the former is an ad-free service, and the latter is ad-supported.

Is lowering the price figuring that Disney+ alone is priced at $7.99 and ESPN+ is priced at $6.99? Want to throw in a Hulu video-on-demand library, on an advertising-free basis? That will bring the deal up to $75.99.

For some, the consumer price equation would seem to be good, especially when compared to existing traditional cable, satellite and telco packages, which can run consumers $85 to $90 a month. Toss in broadband and it totals about $116 per month, according to Doxo, a digital payment service.

Hulu+Live TV is now at 4 million monthly subscribers. When compared to the big players, it is still way down the list. Comcast is at 18.6 million, while Charter is at 15.9 million, DirecTV is at 15 million, and Dish Network is at 8.4 million. Hulu+Live TV has been in operation since May 2017, while Sling TV, the first virtual pay TV provider to start in February 2015, has 2.6 million.



Disney seems to be playing both sides of the streaming/linear TV market, guessing that consumers want the old, with a sprinkling of the new.

Even with cord-cutting, some 77 million U.S. TV households, per Leichtman Research Group, still have traditional TV packages -- a cable, satellite, telco or virtual service. While drifting lower, it suggests some critical mass of U.S. consumers aren't ready to make a radical departure.

Many might say Disney's reconfiguration of its bundle has to do with a slowdown in Disney+ adding new subscribers. But the truth is that for Disney -- and for competitor Netflix -- the real gains to be made in the streaming world are encouraging global sign-ups. Analysts -- as well as Netflix and Disney -- readily admit that U.S. potential for growth is minimal.

Disney’s streaming bundle -- Disney+, Hulu (on-demand, with ads) and ESPN+, at $13.99 -- still gets the bulk of its attention on national TV networks and platforms.

We are wondering whether this new effort to leverage Hulu+Live TV with its more high-profile products will get any similar marketing support. If not, then perhaps we have a better idea what this means to Disney’s pay TV market ambitions.

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