It’s no secret our website has been vehemently opposed to Disney’s streaming strategy in the USA, going so far as to refer it as disrespectful, insulting, pandering, and toxic. We don’t hate the Bundle. We don’t hate Hulu. We don’t hate Disney+. Mostly we refer specifically to two failings –
- Disney+ being the only major streaming service to cap their content at a low maturity rating, refusing to stream anything TV-MA or Rated R is the first facet of our bitterness.
- The other reason for these strong accusations is what we’ve referred to as Disney and Hulu’s “toxic relationship.” Hulu has all TV-PG, and TV-14 series locked in, despite the age range being appropriate for Disney+. Despite series like Falcon and the Winter Soldier being more violent and more full of cuss words than any of the ~75 TV-PG series Disney owns that are on Hulu. We’ve since witnessed more respectful treatment of subscribers in Latin America where high quality bingeable series such as Glee, Ugly Betty, and Fresh Off the Boat were added to Disney+ instead of Star+ (their Hulu). Every country besides USA has a superior variety of library content.
The top 4 main complaints about Disney+ we’ve seen since launch are missing titles, episodes out of order, lack of content for adults, and lack of binge TV. None of these are being corrected in good time, if at all. We’re only focused on the binge TV for now. The Bundle can exist in a way that is not awful for consumers. It’s about balance, sharing, and respecting the older subscribers.
Disney has, at numerous junctures ignored the critical need for binge TV on a streaming service and continued to hoard incredibly solid fits for Disney+ on Hulu. This occurred most recently mere weeks ago when Disney renewed Bones, a TV-14 series, days before its expiration on Hulu instead of moving it to Disney+. Status quo. Since launch in 2019 we have watched as over 20 series, many great fits for Disney+, have come into Hulu’s “expiring” tab only to be “rescued” days before they leave.
The end of the fiscal year September 30th brings with it many contracts lapsing. It’s not just Disney-distributed series either; almost all remaining Nickelodeon library is set to leave Hulu! However, this article exists for one reason: for the first time since launch there is one specific Disney-owned series set to expire where getting renewed on Hulu would be an inarguable offense to Disney’s subscriber-base. More so than any previous series. We can complain that Ugly Betty or Make it Or Break It or Bunheads or Scrubs or Melissa & Joey deserved to switch over when their contracts lapsed in 2020 but there is no excuse that will be appropriate if Disney chooses renew this series.
You already know if you read the title and clicked which status we’re referring to! Neil Patrick Harris’ classic Doogie Howser is expiring less than 1 month after the premiere of Doogie Kamealoha, the series which serves as a reboot.
It would be blasphemous and some of the most incompetent marketing and branding we’ve ever seen to continue to keep the series on separate service when there is a literal (not literal) legal window that has opened to move it!
The timing is incredible! Either the series moving over is the plan and they tweaked the contract and planned Doogie Kamealoha to premiere at the same time or else this is one hell of a coincidence. And yet we really feel like Disney is gonna drop the ball. Again. How angry will you be if they choose to keep the TV-PG original series separated for some strange “strategy” reason?
People parrot back that “Disney can’t remove series from Hulu because Comcast owns 33% until 2024.” This exhibits a rudimentary understanding of licensing and the relationship between the two businesses (yes, they’re businesses).
All television series are licensed for set periods of time and Disney only distributes about 175 series currently streaming on Hulu. That complete library of Disney-owned series? A drop in the Hulu bucket. We crunched the numbers. Less than 10% of Hulu is “Disney.” We’ve always advocated that Disney should have pulled a bunch of the family friendly series before launch and added them to Disney+, regardless of the “Comcast” co-ownership. When licenses expire, there is no legal or moral reason Disney cannot move a series from Hulu to Disney+.
The other argument is “they can’t raise Hulu’s value or they pay Comcast more for the buyout, but they can’t sabotage the value intentionally or that will cause trouble too.” So… we’re pretending Hulu, the streaming service known for next-day in-season episodes (the reason most people subscribe), and known for being the “TV streaming service” is gonna lose value because… 25 random family friendly series like Doogie Howser or Mary Tyler Moore moved over? Hilarious. This argument is also wrong. And yes! The Fox purchase included legendary series like Mary Tyler Moore and MASH… amazing choices for Disney+.
They could pull every single TV-PG and TV-14 series and just leave Hulu the TV-MA titles from Fox / FX and Comcast wouldn’t flinch. Hulu’s value would not “drop” from this loss, and would just be offset by something new. They are adding thousands of Hotstar titles as we speak and could announce ESPN+ folding into Hulu. Boom, value restored.
Remember, Comcast gets to pull all their stuff next year, if they choose to exercise that option. You think they’d care if Disney removed 40 titles out of 3000 using similarly legal and ethical means? Do you not realize that Comcast is simultaneously serving a second streaming service, Peacock? Do you not realize they understand that Disney too balances multiple services and has to make business decisions that keep BOTH running? There is ALWAYS room for talk and negotiation and compromises and back scratching in boardrooms. Comcast would not be the big scary monster that says “NO WAY DISNEY.”
Bottom line – Disney is thus far making a conscious decision to limit Disney+ in the USA. If they wanted “adult” titles they could do it in a heartbeat. There is no magical rule that only one streaming service per company can house adult titles. If there was, then Hulu would have to remove all the kid-friendly titles! It’s only fair! *eyeroll*
If they wanted binge TV they could. All they have to do is:
- Wait for series to come up for expiration,
2. Sign licensing agreement to place it on Disney+
It would be a very gradual removal – we’ve only seen 20ish series come up for expiration since November 2019 out of about 250. This would not piss of Comcast because it’s a natural form of streaming service activity. Why, just in October Castle will join Hulu for the first time in years! Only weeks ago the children’s cartoon The Tick was added despite being perfect for Disney+. Hulu will survive. Every month series come and go from streaming services.
It’s time for Disney’s 2-year strategy of keeping every series on Hulu when it comes up for expiration to end. Since launch zero series have transferred from Hulu. ZERO!!
We’ve seen a few be duplicated at launch (KC Undercover, The Runaways, for example). Those series are still duplicated to this day while their Hulu contracts continue to rage on. We have NEVER seen a series leave Hulu and become exclusive on Disney+.
It’s time for Doogie Howser to FINALLY be the show that breaks free from Hulu and streams where it belongs.
Drew Ryan is a film, TV, and Disney geek. He has degrees in English, Student Personnel Administration, and Library & Information Science from Lawrence University, Concordia University-Wisconsin, and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Interested in the minutia and licensing of streaming service content, he is always publishing lists, suggestions, and advocating for Disney’s missing library to be added to Disney+. Drew subscribes to Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, HBO Max, and Paramount+. You can find him waxing nostalgic over classic Disney Channel or geeking out over Marvel, CW shows, & Disney on Twitter.