Ampere: Disney+, ESPN+, Hulu Top 100 Million Combined U.S. SVOD Subscribers

Disney topped 100 million U.S. subscribers to its streaming services for the first time in early Q4 2021, according to new data from Ampere Analysis. By the end of this quarter (ending Dec. 31), the “Disney bundle,” i.e., Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+, will further boost customer numbers.

Disney ended the third quarter with 179 million SVOD subs globally.

Disney topped 50 million U.S. subs in Q4 2019 following the launch of Disney+, and two years later hit 100 million, with both Hulu and Disney+ on track to finish the year in excess of 40 million subs.

ESPN+ is expected to finish 2021 with more than 20 million subs, nearly six times more than at the end of Q3 2019, before the launch of Disney+. Ampere estimates that the domestic client base of the three services will reach around 108 million subs by the end of the year, up from around 99 million at the end of Q3 2021.

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“A strong content portfolio from Disney+ and Hulu, making the most of its key Marvel and Star Wars franchises (on Disney+) and FX (on Hulu), as well as the continuation of live sports (on ESPN+) has further driven subscription growth this year,” Toby Holleran, research manager at Ampere, said in a statement.

Holleran said the strategy to incorporate Disney+ and ESPN+ subs — alongside Hulu — with Hulu online TV will further push the domestic sub base to around 108 million by the end of the year.

With media reports suggesting NBCUniversal is considering moving its content from Hulu to the Peacock streaming service in 2022, Holleran said Disney could still grow subs.

“The combination of attractive bundled pricing, alongside a strong slate of original content scheduled for release in 2022 across Disney+ and Hulu, [we] expect the combined suite to experience growth beyond 2021,” he said.

Disney Premier Access/PPV Revenue Jumped 70% to $933 Million in 2021

Disney made headlines when it generated $60 million in high-margin premium video-on-demand (or Disney+ Premier Access) revenue for the opening weekend box office release of Marvel Studios’ Black Widow.

Disney didn’t disclose further PVOD revenue until the Nov. 24 release of the media giant’s annual 10-K report. In the filing, Disney said it generated $933 million in revenue from the combined PVOD sales of Widow, Cruella, Jungle Cruise and Raya and the Last Dragon, in addition to 13 UFC pay-per-view bouts on ESPN+.

That was 70% higher revenue than the $550 million generated from the Premier Access debut of Mulan and 11 PPV UFC fights in the prior fiscal year.

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While Premier Access delivers Disney higher margins than other distribution channels, including theatrical, critics contend that PVOD undermines the movie’s theatrical potential — a mindset that led Black Widow star Scarlett Johansson to file a lawsuit against Disney alleging PVOD undermined her contractually mandated compensation. Johansson and Disney settled their disagreement out of court.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek said the studio would continue to explore concurrent theatrical/Premier Access releases in 2022, in addition to releasing movies in different channels depending on the movie and market conditions.

“We will always do what we believe is in the best interest of the film and the best interests of our constituents,” Chapek told investors in August.

Meanwhile, the motto “Go big or go home” appears to be Disney’s outlook for fiscal-year 2022 as it seeks to significantly ramp up spending on original content, sports rights and capital expenditures.

In line with the company putting most of its eggs into its direct-to-consumer businesses (i.e., Disney+, ESPN+, Hulu, Hulu + Live TV), Disney said it expects to spend upwards of $33 billion on original content, productions and live sports rights — up about 25%, or $8 billion from FY 2021.

In the report, Disney said the increased expenditures would be driven by higher spend to support “our DTC expansion” and “generally assumes no significant disruptions to production due to COVID-19.”

Disney will again dominate the 2021 domestic box office with five of the top 12 movies in ticket sales thus far, led by Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings with $224 million. The Thanksgiving weekend release of animated movie Encanto is expected to add to the studio’s haul.

The top-grossing global theatrical release in 2021 remains China’s The Battle at Lake Changjin, the nationalist war drama that has generated an impressive $888 million at the largely Asian box office.

Hulu Partners With Uber Eats

Hulu has announced a partnership with Uber Eats allowing Hulu, Hulu (no ads) and Hulu + Live TV subscribers to receive six months of Eats Pass free ($9.99 per month after).

It’s the first time Uber has extended a membership offering to a streaming company, according to a Hulu release.

Eats Pass is a monthly subscription that offers unlimited free delivery on orders of more than $15 and 5% off eligible orders (including food and grocery). Subscribers also save 10% on their first three eligible rides each month.

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Eligible Hulu subscribers will receive an email with instructions directing them to sign up for this special offer, or they can visit HuluUberEatsPass.com. The offer will be available for redemption from Sept. 28, 2021, through Jan. 10, 2022, and is good for one Uber Eats Pass per Hulu account. The offer is available to new Eats Pass subscribers only.

Hulu Adds NFL Network to Live TV Channel Line-Up

NFL Network is now available to Hulu’s Live TV subscribers in the $64.99 a month subscription plan.

The addition of NFL Network to Hulu’s 75-plus live TV channel line-up  brings live NFL preseason games, exclusive live NFL regular season games, studio shows such as “Good Morning Football” and “NFL Total Access,” as well as “NFL GameDay Morning” and “NFL Now,” and original series such as “A Football Life,” “NFL 360” and “America’s Game.”

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Hulu has also launched a sports add-on featuring six sports networks with a collection of live games, recent highlights, sports news and events. For $9.99 per month, Hulu’s Live TV subscribers can add NFL RedZone, Outdoor Channel, Sportsman Channel, MAVTV Motorsports Network, TVG and TVG2 to their live TV line-up.

“With the launch of NFL Network and our new Sports Add-on, Hulu + Live TV continues to be the ultimate destination for sports fans to watch thousands of hours of live and on­demand sports programming,” Reagan Feeney, Hulu SVP of Live TV content programming and partnerships, said in a statement. “Starting today, viewers can bring even more game day action to their living room with live games and events, original shows, motorsports, horse racing and much more.”

“We are excited to bring NFL Network and NFL RedZone to Hulu + Live TV subscribers,” Hans Schroeder, EVP and COO of NFL Media, said in a statement. “One of our top priorities as a League remains broadening the distribution platforms for NFL content, and so we’re very pleased to bring our lineup of award-winning shows and live games to Hulu’s live subscribers.”

Comcast Adds Hulu + Live TV to Xfinity Flex

Comcast July 22 announced that its broadband-only Xfinity Flex subscribers now have access to Disney’s Hulu + Live TV, the largest online TV platform with more than 4 million subs.

Existing Hulu + Live TV subs can access their programming from within Flex’s existing Hulu app by saying “Hulu” into their Xfinity Voice Remote. After signing in with their credentials, they’ll have access to their full subscription — including dozens of live channels (and associated on demand programming) spanning sports, news, kids and entertainment, Hulu originals, exclusive series, and more. In the coming weeks, new customers will be able to sign-up for the service via their Flex devices.

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“The addition of Hulu + Live TV on Flex adds tremendous value for our internet customers, giving them access to more of their streaming content and subscriptions alongside a growing catalog of free programming — all seamlessly integrated into one voice-enabled and easy-to-navigate experience,” Rebecca Heap, SVP of video and entertainment for Comcast Cable, said in a statement.

Hulu + Live TV joins a growing list of linear streaming services available on Flex, including Xfinity Stream, Sling TV, Peacock, HBO Max, Paramount+, Xumo and Pluto.

Hulu + Live TV Adds Nine ViacomCBS Networks

Hulu + Live TV is adding nine ViacomCBS networks to its channel lineup, including Comedy Central, BET, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr, VH1, CMT, MTV, TV Land and the Paramount Network.

Subscribers will also have on-demand access to TV series titles such as “Freaks & Geeks,” “Moesha” and “Sister Sister.”

Monthly subscription pricing for Hulu + Live TV will remain at $64.99 per month.

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Five ViacomCBS networks — BETher, MTV2, NickToons, TeenNick and MTV Classic — will join Hulu’s entertainment add-on.

Hulu + Live TV offers more than 65 live TV channels, plus the core Hulu on-demand service (normally $5.99 per month as a standalone offering).

Hulu + Live TV Raising Monthly Fee 18%

With carriage fees (i.e. sports) increasing, Hulu + Live TV is passing the costs onto its online subscribers in the form of an 18% monthly price hike to $64.99 — up from the current $54.99 — and set to go into effect Dec. 18.

Hulu’s online TV platform added 1.2 million subs in the most recent fiscal period to end with 4.1 million subs — 1.8 million more than online TV pioneer Sling TV.

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The price hike is the the third in the past three years ($40 to $45 to $55) of Hulu’s online TV platform existence. The platform is now on par price wise with YouTube TV, AT&T TV and fuboTV. Sling recently raised its monthly fee to $30.

Hulu + Live TV Launches on PlayStation 4

Hulu + Live TV March 3 became available on PlayStation 4 consoles, the service announced.

PlayStation 4 users are be able to subscribe to Hulu + Live TV, gaining access to both live and on-demand programming from channels such as ESPN, Fox, NBC and ABC.

Current PlayStation 4 users who already have Hulu can switch to Hulu + Live TV through their account settings on Hulu.com. Viewers who are already subscribed to Hulu + Live TV will also now be able to access and watch live channels through the Hulu app on PlayStation 4.

Hulu + Live TV is currently supported by Apple TV (fourth generation), Amazon Fire TV devices, Amazon’s Echo Show, Roku devices, Xbox One, Xbox 360, iOS and Android mobile devices, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, select LG and Samsung TVs, VIZIO SmartCast TVs, Windows 10, Mac and PC browsers, and Chromecast.

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Hulu Live TV Price Jumping by $10 a Month

The price for the Hulu Live TV service will increase by $10 a month, Hulu announced.

The skinny bundle will jump from $44.99 a month to $54.99 starting Dec. 18.

“The new price better reflects the substantial value of Hulu + Live TV and allows us to continue offering all of the popular live news, sports and entertainment programming included in the plan,” read a Hulu statement.

The service features more than 60-plus live TV sports, news and entertainment channels, including ESPN, Fox Sports, CNN, FX, TNT, Bravo and all major broadcast networks.

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“Price changes are never easy to stomach, and we know that many people don’t watch live television year-round, so we’ve made it easy for Hulu subscribers to switch back and forth between our plans to best suit their needs,” read the Hulu statement. “If you love college football, choose Hulu + Live TV during the season, then switch to one of Hulu’s less expensive on-demand plans when it’s over. If you enjoy most of your TV on demand but really want to watch live election news, just switch to Hulu + Live TV for a few months.”