Marvel fans have plenty of reasons to be happy about the Disney-Fox merger, and some people are overjoyed to know Anastasia will soon be a Disney princess, but is this deal good for TV fans? That remains to be seen, but if the Disney-Fox merger goes through unchallenged, Disney will officially own 60% of Hulu, the streaming company with the most comprehensive library of TV shows. While Hulu has moved into the realm of original series, its biggest draw remains the next-day access to new episodes and full seasons of fan favorite series from a wide range of channels. Now that Disney is on track to become the company’s primary shareholder, the future of Hulu is uncertain.
Disney has plans to launch their own streaming service in 2019. The site is supposed to be a destination for all things Disney, Star Wars, and Marvel — with a mix of original shows and movies. These plans were made before Disney acquired Hulu, and they don’t appear to be changing in light of the potential merger. Currently, there’s quite a bit of Disney-owned content on Hulu, but it seems that the House of Mouse wants to use Hulu as a streaming service for programs and movies aimed exclusively as adults. Meanwhile, their in-house service will be more family-friendly.
According to The Wrap, Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger said in a conference call,
“We believe that it’s possible that a consumer may want to basically be choosy in terms of what product they want,” Iger explained. “Some may want pure family, some may want pure sports, some may want adult. Some may want all of it, by the way, and certainly we’ll make that available.”
If this sounds suspiciously like a gambit to make consumers sign up to multiple services, then that’s because it probably is. Rather than taking advantage of Hulu to create a massive, one-stop shop for television and films, Disney seems set on splintering the site. And if 30% shareholder NBC/Comcast — and the rest of Hulu’s minority shareholders — decide to take their football and go home rather than feed into Disney’s growing conglomerate, then Hulu’s library will become smaller still. Seeing the impressive library Hulu has built up fragmented would be a shame, and it could turn off subscribers who want it all at an affordable price.
The question becomes can Hulu survive the Disney-Fox merger? Ultimately, that’s going to come down to the management decisions that Disney makes, but their early plans aren’t promising — at least not for consumers who aren’t interested in a streaming market that’s becoming increasingly specialized. One of the best streaming sites on the market is in serious danger of disappearing if Disney’s doesn’t take care of their new asset.