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Hulu on Disney+ launches today: What is it? What can I watch? Your questions, answered

The world of streaming is getting a little bit smaller. Or bigger, depending on your point of view. 

Starting Wednesday, Disney+ subscribers can upgrade to a bundle that puts the Hulu app right on the Disney+ home screen, marrying the streamer known for Marvel and kids' shows with the one known for post-apocalyptic nightmares and the Kardashians. At just $2 more a month for the cheapest plan, Disney+ subscribers can now watch “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Only Murders in the Building” and “The Mandalorian” and “ܱ” in one handy-dandy app.

A test version of the beefed-up service launched in December for existing Disney bundle subscribers to great success for the corporation. It’s all in service of a “one-app experience,” as Disney CEO Bob Iger described it. It's the latest example in a consolidation trend among streaming services in a new landscape marked by fewer services and new shows, password-sharing crackdowns, rising prices and lots of commercials. So get ready. 

It’s easy to say "Hulu is becoming part of Disney+," but what does it actually mean for subscribers of one or both platforms? We answer all your questions. 

Hulu's hub in the Disney+ app.

Why is Hulu launching inside Disney+?

It’s always about money, isn’t it? At the end of 2023, Disney acquired full control of Hulu (once split among Disney, Fox and Comcast), after Comcast sold its remaining stake.

“We think that by making it available as a one-app experience it will increase engagement and increase our opportunity in terms of serving digital ads and growing our advertising business,” Iger said on an earnings call last year.

The goal of streaming services is to have their customers spend lots of time on the apps, watching as much programming as possible. Disney+ is limited mostly to kids' programming, plus Marvel and "Star Wars." Hulu has a much broader, more mature swath of programming that also includes FX series like "Shogun" and "Fargo," reruns of "30 Rock" and "Frasier" and classic and recent movies. Its catalog is much deeper and more diverse than Disney+'s.

How much will the bundled app cost?

The same as the current : $19.99 a month for ad-free "Duo Premium” and $9.99 a month with commercials. Existing Disney+ customers can pay that $2 extra a month for Hulu content.

What about ESPN+?

While the sports content streamer is part of a larger Disney bundle, it is not included as an in-app experience on Disney+.

A new look at the Disney+ homepage with Hulu bundled in the same app.

What does Hulu on Disney+ look like?

Pretty much like Disney plus, with a little more green involved. Viewers will see a "Hulu" tile on the far right of the Disney+ home screen, in the same line they are used to seeing "Disney," "Marvel," "Star Wars," "Pixar" and "National Geographic." Searching and browsing will see Hulu content mixed right in with everything else.

But even if you don't pony up for the combined experience, stand-alone Disney+ subscribers will see ads for the bundle all over the platform, from big hero images on the home screen to Hulu titles showing up in search with a small "upgrade" tag in the corner.

Meryl Streep as Loretta and Martin Short as Oliver in Season 3 of "Only Murders in the Building."

Are Disney+ and Hulu going away as separate services?

No. If you want to keep paying for one (or both) apps on their own, you still can.

What's the benefit to me?

According to Disney, it will just make your life easier. You won't have to jump between apps to switch Disney+ content to Hulu content. The algorithm will theoretically raise more content you haven't heard of before from both platforms once it learns what you watch from a bigger sample. If you aren't a bundle subscriber but you subscribe to Hulu and Disney+ separately with the same email address, you will be able to upgrade to the bundled price and combined app as well.

Is Disney+ cracking down on password sharing like Netflix did?

You bet it is. On a Feb. 7 earnings call, Disney's chief financial officer, Hugh Johnston, announced that a new way to pay to share accounts is coming to Disney+ later this year, and it sounds a lot like Netflix’s 2023 password-sharing crackdown.

“We want to reach as large an audience as possible with our outstanding content and we’re looking forward to rolling out this new functionality to improve the overall customer experience and grow our subscriber base,” Johnston said. By year-end, you can expect to have password-sharing limited by location and options to add new members or create new accounts offered to subscribers who are frequent sharers. So maybe take stock of who is watching Disney+ on your account. 

Contributing: Gary Levin

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