Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery Just Reinvented Cable

Said it before, will say it again: Streaming is just cable TV now. So much so that the services created to give cord-cutters the content they want have now resorted to reinventing the wheel. To wit: On Wednesday, Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery announced a new partnership, one that will bundle Disney+, Hulu, and Max into one service. For those keeping track, it’ll theoretically put HBO, HGTV, Hulu, ABC, FX, CNN, Disney (so, Marvel, Pixar, Star Wars, etc.), and the DC Extended Universe into one pile, just like the cable packages of yore.

The new service is set to launch in the summer. Specifics like pricing and whether or not it’ll be a stand-alone app with its own name (might we suggest DisneyMax±?) have yet to be announced, but there will be ad-free and ad-supported tiers. If it is a stand-alone, one can only imagine what wild color scheme it will have, but if it’s a combo of purple and that new sea-green that the Disney+/Hulu service has, I’ll scream.

In addition to making things difficult for those of us who make all those what-to-watch guides Jack Dorsey likes to tweet about, the new bundle also sets up a face-off between streaming’s old guard and new. In a weird reversal, the old guard in this case are services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, the ones who got everyone to cut the cord in the first place. The newcomers are the legacy media companies that created their own streamers to try to keep up. After a shaky start, Disney finally showed signs of turning a streaming profit in its quarterly earnings report this week. Max, meanwhile, has been making money for Warner Bros. Discovery for a while, even when it loses subscribers. (Ads, baby!)

Combined, the offerings of these two companies might be tough to beat, a catalog to rival Netflix’s, which could cause a bit of hand-wringing at the streaming behemoth. (Apple TV+ and Amazon might care, but they both have other ways of making money, like shipping you stuff and selling you new iPads.)

A recent Parrot Analytics report found that when the monthly cost of each streaming service is weighed against demand for its original shows and movies, Max and the Disney+/Hulu bundle are both in the bang-for-your-buck Top 3. Disney’s bundle is expensive, but it’s got a lot to offer; Max is $4 cheaper, but has less stuff. The other one? Netflix’s standard plan, which at $15.49 is 50 cents less than Max, but has more in-demand content. If the new DisneyMax± bundle (sorry, that’s its name now) is competitively priced, it could be a thorn in Netflix’s side, especially as the companies roll out the Star Wars series The Acolyte and new seasons of the hit shows House of the Dragon and The Bear.

One thing mysteriously missing from the Disney-WBD announcement, though, is whether this new streaming bundle will offer live sports. Considering the companies are teaming up (heh) with Fox Corp. to offer a streaming sports bundle, odds are it likely won’t. But as the consolidation of streaming continues, there’s no guarantee a similar service that includes sports won’t come later,

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