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Disney: Ad-Supported Disney+ Could Mirror Hulu Pricing

Disney’s pending launch of a cheaper, ad-supported option for Disney+ has no price point or launch date. But that didn’t stop Wall Street analysts from calling out Disney senior management for further details on the subscriber option SVOD rival Netflix is looking to emulate in the fourth quarter.

Speaking on the May 11 fiscal call, CFO Christine McCarthy and CEO Bob Chapek both reiterated that an ad-supported Disney+ option is coveted by marketers as well as a way to attract incremental subscribers.

CEO Bob Chapek, CFO Christine McCarthy

“We will continue to evaluate what makes sense for the service in terms of pricing,” McCarthy said. “And I will say that you can look to our experience with Hulu and [its] ad-supported tier. We believe that this will contribute to ARPU. And we look at it as certainly something additive that will work towards achieving our long-term profitability goals.”

Hulu charges $6.99 monthly for access with advertising, and $12.99 monthly for ad-free access. Disney+ currently costs $7.99 monthly, but Chapek hinted a price hike was in play in part to pay for upwards $32 billion in multiplatform content production across Disney properties.

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“As we increase our content investment, we believe that that’s going to give us the ability to adjust our price,” Chapek said. “We are bullish about our future content going forward, not only in terms of quality but also in terms of quantity. And that’s really what’s driving our bullishness, for what we might see as the pricing power that we would have going forward.”

The executive said the company remained in “good shape” in terms of being able to meet an internal deadline for rollout of the Disney+ ad tier.

“That’s largely because we’re already doing it,” Chapek said. “The combination of our ESPN+ streaming tech stack, and our experience in Hulu and the software, we think that our current advertising capabilities really substantially prepare us to already bring this tier into operations.”

He said Disney doesn’t need to acquire additional assets or develop anything new internally since it acquired IT backend engine BAMTech in 2017.

“We’ve been looking forward to the [Disney+ ad-tier option] for a while,” Chapek said. “So, this is something that’s well-greased, if you will. And our teams are hard at work at making that become a reality.”

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