Disney’s Next Big Streaming Move

Disney will own Hulu outright one day. Most likely it will happen this year. Bob Iger has a countdown on his current tenure and was probably brought back aboard to be more then “Not Bob Chapek”. Iger is known for his acquisitions and new initiatives. So while Hulu will be big and long expected move (it is contractually obligated to settle ownership of the service with Comcast) there is another move Iger and Disney need to make before the company gets left behind. It’s high time Disney started its own FAST.

A FAST is one of those free ad-supported streaming services along the lines of Tubi TV, Pluto TV and Xumo Play. They are a great place to monetize programming that is not moving the dial (bringing in new subscribers) on a premium service and a way to promote programming for the premium service through embedded commercials or even free episodes to get people hooked. Right now Disney has three apps, Disney+, ESPN+ and the controlling interest in Hulu. While some people expect Disney to combine the three services into one, it appears that things are moving along just fine with its bundle strategy that allows users to sign up for individual services or bundle for a discount. This would mean that Disney will likely launch a fourth app. But it does not have to do so from the ground up. Like Fox (Tubi), Paramount Inc (Pluto TV), and Comcast (Xumo Play) Disney can simply purchase an existing Fast that does not already have a major corporate owner.

There are a couple of options out there which are independently owned with the most attractive choice being Chicken Soup For The Soul Entertainment. Chicken Soup For The Soul is in itself a corporate entity, but it is not a giant in the TV world in the way that Disney, Comcast and Fox are. But over time Chicken Soup For The Soul has built a large portfolio of FASTS. The company owns Redbox, Crackle and Popcornflix.

If Disney were to scoop up this entity it would not only gain an already working ecosystem, it would also grab up a number of titles that could all be melded into one. At the moment Redbox, Crackle and Popcorn Flix are all individual apps. In fact there are actually multiple Popcorn Flix branded apps along with Truli (christian programming), Frightpix, and Espanolflix. While they are currently stand alone entities the programming could be built together under different headings using one main app interface.

The combined force of all of those services together would instantly give Disney a massive number of live streaming channels on top of a whole new library of on-demand content to market. The new service could then integrate Disney owned content that has failed to register on the subscription service Disney+ and give it a chance to be discovered for free. Disney has so much content outside of its blockbuster titles and Disney+ originals that it can build into curated 24-7 channels. There is content waiting to be discovered from cartoons from the 1920s-today to Wonderful World of Disney.

At this point not making a move in the free space is almost corporate malfeasance. Many of Disney’s competitors in the streaming space are already far ahead of the company. And now Warner Brothers Discovery is making moves in the space striking deals with Tubi and The Roku Channel. Disney could do the same thing and license out material to existing services but that does not seem like its style.

If and when Disney makes a move it will be industry shaking news. It may not happen before it fully controls Hulu, but it should happen before Bob Iger exits the company again.