Finally Confirmed: Struggling Disney+ Service To Undergo Major Change

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Bob Iger looking at watch with Disney+ catalog of shows in the background

Credit: Inside the Magic

Disney CEO Bob Iger has finally confirmed a massive change for Disney+ after years of disappointing numbers for the streaming service.

The road hasn’t been smooth for Disney+. Despite launching to widespread acclaim in 2019 – when it beat its own expectations and gained over 10 million subscribers in its first 24 hours – its numbers have suffered in recent years, with The Walt Disney Company posting another loss of 1.3 million users in February.

Disney+ logo with Iron Man, Darth Vader, Elastigirl, Moana
Credit: Disney

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Disney has made several attempts to salvage the struggling platform. Since Disney CEO Bob Iger came out of retirement in November 2022, some of the changes include increasing subscription prices, cracking down on password sharing, introducing a separate subscription tier with ads, and merging Disney+ with its sister service, Hulu.

These changes weren’t totally in vain. Today, The Walt Disney Company has announced that Disney+ is (finally) profitable. Despite being projected to lose more than $100 million in the most recent quarter, its earnings report confirmed that it has, in fact, made a $47 million profit – which is two quarters ahead of schedule, as its chief financial officer Hugh Johnston confirmed to The New York Times.

A hand holding a phone with the Disney+ app open
Credit: Mika Baumeister via Unsplash

To keep things moving in the same direction, Iger has also confirmed another change coming to the platform.

During today’s earnings call, Iger revealed that – like Hulu – an ESPN tile will be added to Disney+ by the end of this year. This will give Disney+ subscribers access to “select” live games and studio programming.

A first step to bringing ESPN to @DisneyPlus viewers ahead of the launch of a standalone ESPN streaming service in fall 2025

By the end of this calendar year, an ESPN tile will be added to Disney+📺

Like Hulu, the sports channel has its own separate streaming service that will continue to operate. “I see this as a first step to bringing ESPN to Disney Plus viewers as we ready the launch of our enhanced standalone ESPN streaming service in the fall of 2025,” Iger said.

Unlike the Hulu banner – which requires a bundle subscription to access Hulu content – any regular Disney+ subscriber will be able to watch a limited selection of live sports through the platform. ESPN bundle subscribers will receive the added bonus of being able to watch all content offered by ESPN+.

Streaming service synergy: hulu, disney+, and espn+ logos intertwined with colorful dynamic lines against a dark blue background.
Credit: Disney

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This will only be applicable to U.S. subscribers, similar to how the Hulu tile is only available to U.S. subscribers. In other regions, the content featured under the Hulu banner – such as Bob’s Burgers, Grey’s Anatomy, and Modern Family – has been available under a banner named Star since early 2021.

ESPN+ has notoriously struggled to find its feet since launching in 2018. While Disney+ has experienced a subscription rebound, the service reportedly dropped 400,000 subscribers in the first three months of 2024, going from 25.2 million subscribers at the end of the first fiscal quarter to 24.8 million subscribers.

Notably, subscription declines are expected for sports streaming services during the first three months of each calendar year when football season comes to an end. Nelson Peltz, the billionaire investor who tried to take over the Disney board of directors earlier this year, was previously reported to have had plans to force Disney to sell ESPN+ if he succeeded in his mission.

Are you excited for Disney+ and ESPN+ to merge? Let us know in the comments!

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