Disney readies Disney+ with Hulu app, plans live ESPN streaming service

Executives at the Walt Disney Company say they are moving forward with a plan to integrate shows and movies from their general entertainment streaming service Hulu into their family-friendly service Disney+, with a beta version of the new Disney+ with Hulu app rolling out to users next month.

The affirmation was made on a conference call with investors and reporters on Wednesday, shortly after Disney released its corporate fourth quarter (calendar third quarter) earnings for this year. Data released by Disney showed the SVOD version of Hulu lost 100,000 subscribers during the quarter.

The integration of Hulu content into Disney+ is intended to help address the company's streaming churn rate, CEO Bob Iger said on the conference call this week, while also unlocking added value for advertisers and giving streamers a one-stop shop for their entertainment needs.

The beta version is intended to give customers time to set up parental controls, so younger users of Disney+ are not able to access more-mature content found on Hulu, Iger said. Content from Hulu includes shows from Fox and ABC that are offered one day after their broadcast airing, and a robust back catalog of uncensored comedy and drama series from Disney-owned cable channels FX, FXX and Freeform.

Disney offers various price points for its streaming services, which also includes the sports-centric ESPN+. Standalone prices for Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ tend to run higher when compared to Disney's offer to bundle the apps together, though users still have to switch between apps to take full advantage of their bundled subscription.

Last month, Disney rolled out new pricing for their streaming services, including their bundles, that saw customers pay a few dollars more for access to the company's family-friendly films, general entertainment and live sports. A new bundle launched that allows customers to subscribe to Disney+ and Hulu for $10 a month with ads, or $20 per month without commercials. But the bundle, called Disney Bundle Duo, is only available to purchase through Disney+, with Hulu subscribers having to cancel their plan and resubscribe through Disney+ if they want to take advantage of the deal.

The Disney Bundle Duo is likely going to be the plan that allows native access to Hulu within Disney+, though the company hasn't released many details about the forthcoming integration. It is also unclear how the Disney+ with Hulu service will impact Hulu's overall valuation, which is being scrutinized by separate investment banks ahead of Disney's planned buyout of Comcast's minority stake in Hulu.

Streamers won't have to purchase Disney+ simply to get access to Hulu, though: The company plans to continue offering Hulu as a standalone app with its own subscription pricing once Hulu content becomes available within Disney+, executives said in May.

In addition to the Hulu integration, Disney executives said they also remain dedicated to plans that will see the company bring its ESPN multiplex of cable networks to a dedicated streaming service at some point in the future. Currently, ESPN+ offers some live simulcasts of ESPN sports, but doesn't include access to the full 24-hour cable networks.

On Wednesday, Iger said Disney was looking at "strategic partnerships to help advance our efforts through marketing, technology, distribution, and additional content" for the forthcoming ESPN live app, but didn't offer details on which stakeholders it was reaching out to. Numerous reports indicate Disney — which owns 80% of ESPN (Hearst Television owns the other 20%) — has held discussions with Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, Apple and Amazon about buying into the business.