Say Goodbye to All Your Favorite Shows. Today, Disney Ruined Hulu.
Today, Disney has officially ruined Hulu.
It was inevitable. When Disney gained Fox’s old portion of Hulu in that giant sort-of merger, the writing was on the wall for NBCUniversal.
Well, that’s not totally truthful. When Comcast acquired NBCUniversal from G.E. in 2011, they lost the ability to exert any control over Hulu, So, in reality, the writing has been on the wall since then—we just weren’t sure which direction the full control would fall.
But, now that it’s all Disney, there is no longer a streaming service where you’re guaranteed a combination of content from three of the biggest networks. Instead, that content is going to flee into new streaming services from their corporate parents. According to The Wall Street Journal, “companies launching new streaming services have created TV shows and movies that make up nearly 40 percent of the viewing minutes on Netflix.” That’s no good.
In the statement today, we found out that Hulu gets its current NBC agreements basically in place (if not as exclusive) until 2024. That’s great, I guess. But, sooner or later, if I want to effectively watch “everything,” I’ll have to subscribe to so many services that it is pure insanity.
Disney alone will have 2 entertainment-focused platforms. NBCUniversal is launching a free, ad-supported service. AT&T will have at least 3 (not including legacy DirecTV). New Fox doesn’t really own any of their content anymore so I’m not sure about them. CBS has CBS All Access (such a poor name). Viacom is launching at least one service in addition to their new ownership of PlutoTV and a collection of channels on Apple TV and Amazon Prime. Discovery Networks is also getting in the game.
There is content out there with distribution rights owned by a smaller company. That’s why so many Carsey-Werner shows are all over Amazon Prime and Pluto TV.
And, yes, I said “distribution rights.” All shows don’t totally belong to the network where they originally air. You may think of The Goldbergs as an “ABC show.” It’s actually Sony Pictures TV shows. So, when the 80s themed sitcom courted syndication deals, it was Sony who decided where it landed—not ABC/Disney.
It can actually get even more complicated than that, but mostly on a show-by-show basis.
It’s bad news for catalog content on Netflix as well, but I’m focused on Hulu here because they have something special. If you had Hulu + Live TV, you had all the Hulu content, all the VOD content from the Live TV channels, and anything you cared to DVR. In effect, with Hulu, some premium network add-ons, and Netflix, you were covered for watching 80% of the stuff available out there.
The exception to that rule was Viacom. Viacom held out from most live OTT service deals, saying they plan on launching their own services. They’re only on SlingTV and FuboTV.
With the catchphrase of the up-fronts this year being “our shows are coming home,” will more networks go the Viacom route for more than just their catalog content? Will a true “cable replacement” package even be possible?
No one really knows. Hopefully, something will still be possible. Otherwise, we’ll all go broke. If so, we’ll probably start to find out next year. January 2020 is when the Friends(WarnerMedia)-Netflix deal expires. 2024 is when the Hulu-NBCUniversal deals expire with exclusivity being lost in 2020. The Disney deals with Starz and Netflix are also expiring. That’s when the dominos will start to fall as the corporate-specific services rise.
In the meantime, here’s to watching what we have now while we still have it!