The deal to take full operational control of Hulu marks the third prong in Disney’s direct-to-consumer strategy and will deliver a host of synergies for the company, Chairman and CEO Bob Iger said at the MoffettNathanson Media & Communications Summit.
The company announced yesterday that it was taking operational control of Hulu, effective immediately, and will take full ownership in 2024 after buying out Comcast’s 33-percent stake in the platform. “It’s the third prong in our direct-to-consumer strategy with ESPN+ and Disney+,” Iger said. “We’ll be able to manage customers across all platforms, so customer data, of course, passwords and user names, billing. It gives us the ability to bundle, which is a big deal. Share data. Advertising. This gives us a great opportunity in terms of leveraging our content and our content creative engines, in this particular case [20th Century] Fox, FX, ABC, ABC News, etc. We’ll also be able to leverage our technology.”
Iger said FX will be developing content for Hulu. ABC and ABC News could also produce for the platform.
There are plans to take out Hulu internationally, Iger said. “There will be a large presence of both Disney+ and Hulu internationally over time.” He added, “It won’t compete with any of our other owned businesses internationally. Whereas with Comcast owning Sky, it might have been an issue for them in some international markets.”
On why the move towards direct to consumer was important, Iger noted a point in 2015 when he and his team were “seeing the disruptive effects of technology on traditional businesses in fairly profound ways. We felt, let’s embrace the change in ways that enable us to grow long term. We concluded that we should be in the direct-to-consumer business. We thought it was a big hole in terms of the company’s value proposition.”
The shift started with the BAMTech investment. In 2017 Disney took operational control of the company and used it to begin building ESPN+. August of 2017 saw Iger beginning conversations with Rupert Murdoch about assets that could be acquired from 21st Century Fox, “always with an eye to eventually launching direct-to-consumer businesses,” Iger said.
The key benefits of D2C include data and strengthening relationships with the company’s fans across all of its major brands. “If someone has bought Disney+ and they’ve indicated they are huge Star Wars fans, we may be able to figure out how to give them discounts on buying Star Wars goods or visit Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland. We think we can create more value for the consumer.”
On the role of local content on Disney+ internationally, Iger said, “If we’re going to bring Disney+ to the world, we have to adhere to local quotas. And you have to be locally relevant too. If you look at Marvel, Star Wars, Disney, Pixar and even National Geographic, there’s global appeal to those products. We probably will be able to rely on those much more. We’ll have more product that will travel successfully in markets around the world as a percentage of our total product than [Netflix] will.”