Verizon sweetens unlimited prepaid with 6 free months of Disney+

Verizon has expanded its relationship with Disney content, now bringing prepaid customers into the mix with an offer of six free months of the Disney+ streaming service when they activate or upgrade to an unlimited wireless plan.

Verizon started offering a free year of Disney+ to all new and existing postpaid unlimited subscribers and new Fios Home Internet and 5G fixed wireless customers back in 2019 when the streaming service first launched. It’s since introduced promos for the Disney bundle of Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+. Early this year Verizon extended a one-year free Disney bundle offer to new Fios and 5G Home fixed wireless internet customers.

Now prepaid is the latest to get in on the Disney+ action, which costs $7.99 after the six-month period. The offer is only available to new Disney+ subscribers who take on or upgrade to one of Verizon Prepaid’s unlimited plans, which start at $65 per month. The offer is active through January 2023.

Verizon highlighted upcoming Disney+ releases such as “LEGO Star Wars Summer Vacation,” animated shorts “I Am Groot”, live action “Pinocchio” and “Hocus Pocus 2”.

“So many Verizon customers already enjoy incredible Disney+ content through our long-standing relationship via our postpaid Unlimited plans, and today, we’re excited to expand that to Verizon Prepaid Unlimited customers,” said Angie Klein, chief revenue officer of Verizon Prepaid, in a statement.

Verizon recently made a major push into the prepaid space, closing its acquisition of TracFone that brought around 20 million prepaid subscribers to the carrier.

Verizon isn’t the only carrier that’s looked to streaming services to help sweeten wireless and home internet plans. T-Mobile has long offered “Netflix on Us” and just debuted one free year of TelevisaUnivision’s newly launched Spanish-language streaming service ViX+ to eligible postpaid, prepaid Metro by T-Mobile and Home Internet fixed wireless customers.

In contrast, AT&T in June pulled its premium Unlimited Elite plan that included a free subscription to HBO Max, replacing it with a similar plan that dropped HBO Max in favor of extra hotspot data. So new subscribers won’t get free access to the streaming service (formerly owned by AT&T as part of WarnerMedia), though the change didn’t impact current subscribers of the top-tier plan.  AT&T spun out WarnerMedia earlier this year, which merged with Discovery to form Warner Bros. Discovery.  

However, last week during AT&T’s second quarter earnings CEO John Stankey indicated content – and HBO Max in particular – will likely still be tied to wireless plans for a while.

Asked by investment analysts on the July 21 earnings call about the plan change dropping HBO Max, Stankey said part of the move was segment driven, with the carrier looking at opportunities for where they can tap into stronger growth.

“And we felt that, this quarter, and where we stood, that working on things like more generous hotspot capabilities and better roaming moving into the summer might be a better play in the market,” Stankey noted, according to a transcript.

But that doesn’t mean it’s the strategy AT&T is sticking to forever, he said, or even for the rest of the year. A&T will look at other options as it moves through the summer and peak travel months, he added.

“I think entertainment, as part of a wireless bundle, is probably something that's going to be around with us in this industry for a good period of time because I think…certain customers resonate with it. And HBO Max is a great product,” Stankey said. “We like the fact that we're kind of viewed as being the place to come to get it. And when it's right for us to put that up in the front line to do that, we'll continue to do that.”

As for Verizon, adding Disney+ can’t hurt as a potential way to entice subscribers in the value segment, particularly as the carrier may be feeling some heat after reporting less-than-stellar Q2 earnings. And as it faces steeper competition from T-Mobile, which is increasingly seen by analysts as both the network and price leader in wireless.

For Disney, it’s another push for the streaming service, which saw fast subscriber growth early on alongside its Verizon partnership. As reported by Next TV, in 2021 Verizon said two-thirds of customers who signed up for the free Disney bundle promo had kept their service, following the end of the one-year offer.

A recent report from Kantar showed that Disney+ increased its share of new U.S. SVOD subscriptions in Q2 2022, accounting for 14.8%, putting it only behind Amazon Prime Video.