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Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery join together for new streaming bundle

Samantha Masunaga and Meg James – Los Angeles Times (TNS)

There’s nothing like a streaming war to bring competitors together.

Walt Disney Co. and Warner Bros. Discovery will offer a new streaming bundle that allows subscribers to access Disney+, Hulu and Max all in one deal, the two companies said Wednesday. The bundle will be available in the U.S. starting this summer and can be purchased through any of the three streaming platforms’ websites.

It will be offered in both ad-free and ad-supported options. Pricing has not been disclosed but will presumably represent a discount of the collective services.

The two companies billed the joint bundle offering as a “first of its kind.” It comes on the heels of Disney’s integration of Hulu into its Disney+ service, which is intended to help increase viewer engagement and reduce churn on Disney+, which has 117.6 million subscribers.

Hulu, meanwhile, has 45.8 million subscribers. Warner Bros. Discovery has 97.7 million subscribers across its streaming platforms, including Max, HBO Max and discovery+, as well as its premium pay-TV services such as HBO.

“This incredible new partnership puts subscribers first, giving them access to blockbuster films, originals, and three massive libraries featuring the very best brands and entertainment in streaming today,” Joe Earley, president of Disney Entertainment’s direct to consumer division, said in a statement.

The Disney-Warner Bros. Discovery team-up comes as media and entertainment companies continue to incur enormous costs to ramp up their own streaming services while subscriber sign-ups have significantly slowed in the last year. Major media companies recognize that they can’t keep spending billions of dollars to bulk up their program offerings — but they need more heft to compete against Netflix and Amazon’s Prime Video.

The decision to offer several services — owned by two media rivals — for one fee is kicking off an expected trend of consolidation in the streaming space. Analysts have long argued that there are too many services.

Even Warner Bros. Discovery Chief Executive David Zaslav was prepared for the possibility back in 2020.

“Will there be three? Will there be four? There’s not going to be seven,” he told CNBC at the time. “We think there will be a re-bundling. Our job is to make sure we’re absolutely essential … But I’m not sure anybody has all the cards.”

Zaslav wasn’t alone in that thinking.

Last fall, Comcast and Paramount Global managers held talks about combining Paramount+ with NBCUniversal’s Peacock in the U.S. to bolster their offerings to consumers, according to three people familiar with the talks but not authorized to speak publicly. The talks lapsed because Paramount’s controlling shareholder, Shari Redstone, was interested in pursuing a separate deal to sell the company and didn’t want to encumber an important asset.

The nation’s two largest cable companies, Comcast and Charter Communications, combined forces last fall to offer the Xumo Stream Box, which gives customers a device that allows easier access to subscription-based and ad-supported streaming apps, including Apple TV+, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+, Hulu and Max.

Not to be outdone, Prime Video also offers multiple streaming services as add-ons.

More recently, Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery and Fox Corp. disclosed plans to roll out a sports-centric streaming service this fall. The service has not announced a name, leaving observers to colloquially refer to it as “Spulu,” a portmanteau of “sports” and “Hulu.”

©2024 Los Angeles Times. Visit at latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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