Cable TV back? Disney, Warner Bros. announce bundling plan

A 1988 trade ad with Disney thanking WB on “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”. Disney and WBD are now looking to bundle their streamers for consumers. (Disney)

Includes Hulu and but no word on if new sports streaming service is included

In a move for their streaming services to become more economical for subscribers, The Walt Disney Co. and Warner Bros. Discovery announced Wednesday a plan to bundle their streaming services.

Both plan to launch the bundle this summer with ad-supported and commercial-free tiers being offered. Notably absent from this bundle is ESPN Plus, as Disney plans to launch a separate direct-to-consumer version of the all-sports network next year. Disney has Disney Plus and Hulu; Warner owns streamers Max, Discovery Plus, and Bleacher Report. 

“On the heels of the very successful launch of Hulu on Disney Plus, this new bundle with Max will offer subscribers even more choice and value,” said  Disney Entertainment direct-to-consumer president Joe Earely.  “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.”

According to CNBC, Disney will run the planned bundling enterprise and give Warner Bros. Discovery a cut of the profits. No price points were announced. 

The bundling effort comes as churn – canceling and re-subscribing to a service – is a big problem for studios trying to build customer loyalty. With Warner announcing another price increase for Max, streaming services are becoming more expensive. It reminds customers of the cable TV “bundle”, which led viewers to cut the cord. 

Both companies – and Fox – are already teaming up to offer a sports fan-targeted streaming service, also scheduled to launch this summer. It isn’t known if the new service will be bundled with the others. 

This comes at a pivotal time for Warner Bros. Discovery as the company is once again looking at layoffs and is on the verge of losing NBA rights to NBCUniversal, who bid an astrometrical $2.5 billion for the league’s portion of rights as Amazon is also looking to take a huge bite. 

The Disney-Warner bundle plan could force NBCUniversal’s Peacock and Paramount Global’s Paramount Plus to join together and create their bundle. The future of Paramount Global is in serious question after a plan to be acquired by Skydance stalled while Sony and hedge fund Apollo Global Management are advancing plans to buy the studio. Both said they plan to sell Paramount’s cable networks, CBS, and their owned stations including CBS 2 (WBBM-TV) here but may keep free streamer Pluto TV.

Earlier Wednesday, NBCUniversal made a deal with Pluto TV to add the NBC owned-and-operated stations’ local news streaming channels to the platform, including WMAQ’s NBC Chicago News.


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