Beta launch of Hulu on Disney+ has ‘far exceeded’ expectations: Disney ad exec says

Disney’s recent beta launch of Hulu content within the Disney+ app appears to be going swimmingly, according to Disney President of Global Advertising Rita Ferro.

Speaking during a livestreamed fireside chat on LinkedIn Thursday, Ferro said the launch of Hulu on Disney+ “has far exceeded every metric we had planned for it in the short period of time that we’ve had it.”

Disney has taken full control of Hulu after buying out Comcast’s remaining 33% stake and just last month launched the beta version of a Hulu hub within Disney+ to subscribers of the Hulu-Disney+ bundle. A full launch is planned for March 2024.

Questioned by the moderator on what Ferro meant by every metric, she indicated increased engagement and “the amount of people that would see it.” Ferro noted the goal of adding Hulu content within the Disney+ app was to enable customers of the Disney bundle to be able to access content from both platforms in a much easier way.

“And so when you give them the ability to discover that they have that content accessible in the experience they’re viewing it in, they spend more time on that content,” she said.

During the fireside chat, Ferro also discussed how engagement is a particularly key metric in streaming, and one where she expects growth, including from what it has seen so far with the Hulu and Disney+ integration.

“I definitely think consumers want to engage with content. It’s discoverability of that content to allow you to find it, access it and spend time watching it and what that experience will feel like,” Ferro commented.

And while Disney is building up its streaming business Ferro also emphasized that despite declines in linear TV at large, not all linear is declining equally. She said she thinks Disney is in a great position as 50% of its business is linear (including leading sports networks like ESPN) and 50% is streaming (including three of the top ad-supported streaming apps with Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+).

As a company with both advertising and subscription revenue the makeup or mix of that is potentially or even likely to shift, she said, but expects growth for the business “because we have fans coming every day. We have the products and services that they’ve expected…of the quality they’ve expected to receive.”

Ferro also noted a shift of where overall TV growth comes from in terms of linear and streaming, and predicted a change in how Disney uses what she referred to as “real estate space” on its broadcast networks.

“What is the right content for the right experience at the right time across all of those platforms? And I do foresee that will drive growth,” she commented. Disney is seeing that growth across businesses and content “depends what platform and how you’re measuring that growth,” be it eyeballs, audience scale, time spent or engagement, the ad executive added.

And Disney is looking at how it can leverage content across both linear and streaming assets.

On the sports front Disney's ESPN on Thursday announced an eight-year media rights deal with the NCAA covering domestic rights for 40 NCAA championships spanning 21 women’s and 19 men’s events, along with international rights for those same events plus the Division I men’s basketball tournament.

It’s a relationship “that actually doubles down on our investments in the sports space, live drives audiences both on linear and on streaming platforms,” she said of the NCAA deal. “But we know the importance of having live sporting events, owning your own products and technology stack, which is critically important in a world of streaming and will be a competitive advantage I think in the future.”