I Want My CTV: What the Disney+/Hulu App Merger Means

November 16, 2023

You may have heard that Disney is planning to merge its Disney+ streaming service with Hulu into a combined app offering content from both. This doesn’t just mean Boba Fett and The Bear will be in the same place: it’s a major shift for connected TV (CTV) advertising that points to an increasingly streamlined marketing landscape. Most importantly, it means dynamic, platform-specific advertising driven by proprietary technology is taking center stage.

Although Disney has owned a stake in Hulu since 2009 and been a majority owner since 2019, complete acquisition has been a long time coming. In an official statement on November 1, the Walt Disney Company announced that it will purchase the remaining ownership from Comcast for approximately $8.6 billion

But the companies aren’t just teaming up their content, Avengers-style: they’re also sharing advertising capabilities. 

As Variety reported back in January, Disney operates its own Disney Ad Server, which displays ads based on an in-Mouse House algorithm, including the specific ad formats developed and used by Hulu. And while it might seem like the majority of Disney+ subscribers would probably rather pay for the ad-free version, the company has been aggressively promoting its cheaper, ad-enabled tier since launching it late last year, which could lead to an uptick in CTV advertising audience.

TBG Media Director Casey Ruggiero is optimistic about the greater impact this will have.

“It’s exciting any time a tried-and-true platform like Hulu gets an extension into new inventory sources, as it gives marketers more control and flexibility with how they can address an audience,” says Casey. “Hulu’s history in the advertising-based video on demand (AVOD) space is extensive and it will be great to see that extend to Disney’s suite of content.”

CTV ad spend in the U.S. jumped from $6.4 billion in 2019 to nearly $20.7 in 2022, and it’s only expected to increase over the next five years. Ideally this will mean precise and agile ad campaigns for more catered audiences, but it could also boost competition. On the other hand, if it encourages more companies to develop their own ad solutions a la Disney, it might lead to more marketing tools and opportunities.

TBG is witnessing this in real time, as CTV is a core awareness-driving channel in many of our current client campaigns. We’re always testing new targeting tactics and formats, like the dynamic QR Codes and Countdown Overlays in our campaign to drive intern applications for the aerospace industry’s Space Workforce 2030 initiative.

“I think that CTV will eventually be the ubiquitous format for the medium,” Casey adds. “We’ve continued to see dollars and eyeballs shift toward more addressable digital media in the past 10 years, and it feels like the natural direction for the industry at-large.”

Another factor to consider: people are tired of having so many different streaming apps, with many seeing it as a rehash of the pre-cable TV era. There might not yet be a single mega-subscription for all streaming services, but Disney+ absorbing Hulu’s content certainly feels like a step in that direction.

In the meantime, don’t be surprised if there are more “merged app” headlines in the coming years, especially when it comes to Disney. Whatever your relationship with them, CTV ads signify one of the most lasting truisms of marketing: meeting your customer where they are.  

We helped Cradles to Crayons quadruple its donations 
with a surround-sound campaign that included CTV.


About TBG
TBG is a B2B and B2G marketing communications firm with a roster of global clients in aerospace and defense, technology, healthcare, higher-ed, information security, and related industries. Clients work with TBG to build programs that simplify and strategize their core offerings; drive market response through compelling creative; and communicate with their audiences both internally and externally in the most effective way. In November 2023, TBG was acquired by Isovera

For more information please visit bostongroup.com.