Verizon and Disney are expanding their distribution and marketing partnership to add the full Disney+/Hulu/ESPN+ bundle at no charge for subscribers to two wireless plans.
Beginning Thursday, customers who choose the “Play More Unlimited” or “Get More Unlimited” packages will get the bundle for free as part of their monthly cost of $45 or $55 before taxes and fees. Disney charges $13 a month for its three-service bundle. If bought separately, they would be $19.
Two other wireless plans will include six months of Disney+ at no charge, but not the full bundle.
Last October, the companies announced their initial tie-up, which gave 12 free months of Disney+ to all new and existing 4G LTE and 5G unlimited wireless customers as well as FiOS internet households. FiOS pay-TV systems were not part of the previous promotion or the newly expanded one, though wireless customers can stream the Disney apps on smart-TVs and other devices besides their phones.
“The addition of The Disney Bundle to our agreement with Verizon reinforces our commitment to providing their subscribers with access to high-quality entertainment from Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+,” Sean Breen, EVP of Platform Distribution for Disney, said in a press release. “We are always looking for the most advantageous ways for consumers to experience our content and we are pleased to work with Verizon so that they can provide their customers with these appealing new offers.”
Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg has characterized the promotional alliance as a “win-win” deal. At an investor conference last December, he said, “It beat our expectations, even though we had high expectations.” Disney, which just reported 60.5 million global subscribers to Disney+ as of early August, has said the Verizon relationship accounted for more than 20% of new subscriptions in the first two months.
Marketing and distribution relationships, whether inside large companies or with third parties, have been key tools for new entrants in the streaming marketplace as well as incumbent players. Apple TV+, which went live last November, was included free for 12 months to anyone with a newer Apple device. AT&T has woven its HBO Max service, which launched in May, into several of its wireless plans at no charge. T-Mobile has offered promotional integrations with Netflix. Sprint, which merged with T-Mobile, had a similar plan with Hulu.
In an interview with Deadline, Frank Boulben, SVP Marketing and Products of Verizon Consumer Group, said both Verizon and Disney “are keen with the partnership.” Particularly given the effects of COVID-19, which has boosted overall streaming activity and limited broader entertainment options, he said, the promotion “allowed us to address two fundamental customer needs: more entertainment, as options are limited outside the home, and more value for the money.”
Verizon’s contribution to the partnership, Boulben said, is “marketing clout.” With 120 million individual customers and 40 million U.S. households, Verizon has considerable direct reach to consumers. It plans to mount a vigorous promotional campaign across various media as well as plugging the bundle at its retail locations, which have mostly reopened with extra health and safety precautions.