Note: 2 days after we posted this and it gained attention Disney inexplicably renewed the entire lot. 6 months later, September 30th, the titles are set to expire again along with additional Nat Geo titles. We’re tired. If they weren’t planning to move this content over why are they licensing so much of it such a short period?
This news just broke and we’re the first to it. Almost literally the entire collection of National Geographic and National Geographic Wild films and series are expiring from Hulu on March 22nd. While Disney usually renews all Disney-distributed titles that go up for expiration, the timing and quantity tell a pretty clear story. We want to make this clear: we do not have inside info on this and there is speculation involved.
We’ve always suspect that Disney would begin adding mature content in USA through their Marvel or National Geographic brands. We’ve been VERY vocal about how silly it is for an educational brand like National Geographic to be split between Hulu and Disney+. Particularly since Disney+ uses Nat Geo in all its promotional materials and features a brand tile on the homescreen. Turns out we were absolutely correct. We think they even stole the idea from an e-mail we sent to Bob Chapek just before the Star launch February 2021 pitching this strategy for the USA.
One Year After STAR
One year later, it is happening. We also think STAR was a 1-year test-drive. The “basically 1 year to the day” thing is what we keep coming back to. It feels intentional.
Almost literally 1 year after STAR launched internationally and brought Disney+ 18+ titles, news breaks Disney is pulling the the Defenders titles (and many others) from Netflix years before they were going to have access otherwise. 1 year and 1 week after STAR launched they announce they’re unlocking Disney+ USA content ratings. 1 year and 2 weeks after STAR launched they remove the 27 out of the remaining 40 National Geographic titles from Hulu.
They probably intended to make STAR a 1 year trial run and around early February convene to determine the future of USA Disney+. The plans accelerated in November when the stocks fell and subscribers stalled. We suspect they were thrilled with the positive impact STAR had on international churn and decided it was time to bring the USA a proper streaming service. After that, they began negotiating with Netflix for the Defenders titles, knowing they would be an epic highlight and clever way to break in 18+ in USA.
This gives hope that the massively unpopular Star+, believed to be failing in Latin America and Brazil, was also a “1 year trial” and that later this summer our friends down south will receive similar news: titles leaving Star+, Star+ folding into Disney+, whatever… It’s even more likely because Disney announced the Defenders series would be coming to ALL Disney+ markets later this year. ALL includes Latin America and Brazil, which means they too will receive 18+ titles on Disney+. Star+ is likely to go before Hulu does. Hulu may never go, just evolve.
National Geographic Content Drop Coming March 30th?
Seeing almost every title expire at once isn’t a coincidence. Seeing them all expire 6 days after Disney unlocks TV-MA and Rated R titles cannot be happenstance. It seems incredibly likely that Disney is preparing to make Disney+ the exclusive home to Nat Geo. With the timing of the expirations all these titles could arrive on Wednesday, March 22nd. That’s one week after they add the Defenders titles and unlock the full range of maturity ratings.
It’s also possible that (like almost always) a big surprise was spoiled by the international Disney+ marketing teams. Remember how Canada spoiled the Defenders arriving? Their press release list also had a very strange, massive content drop of 90+ National Geographic titles listed on March 30th. We suspected at the time there was more to it and hoped we’d get one too. We doubted it when the March video didn’t mention anything, but then realized Disney+ USA’s March video also completely ignored the Marvel Defenders titles and a content drop shortly after the addition of mature ratings is essential, in our view, to a proper rollout.
We’ll probably get confirmation this is happening at the Shareholder Meeting (March 9th) or in a press release as early as today.
We never get tired of being right when it’s about good things.
We’re going to make a bold prediction and say that Disney+ USA will also be receiving a massive National Geographic content drop, likely on March 30th.
Canada’s marketing team basically spoiled Disney providing a Nat Geo Content drop AND TV-MA / mature TV-14 titles arriving on Disney+ USA! Way to go Canada!
At least it wasn’t Italy, Spain, or another of the frequent “spoilers” this time.
Our closing thoughts on this all are… it’s REALLY going to suck if they renew this whole library and keep it on Hulu. A MASSIVE slap to the face of all USA subscribers. March 30th is also a pretty dumb time to do a content drop when they could place it on Friday, April 1st, and have time to properly promote it in their April 1st video and April press release list. It might seem like a joke, but maybe Disney+ USA is finally ready to kick ass?
Drew Ryan is a film, TV, and Disney geek. He has degrees in English, Student Personnel Administration, and Library & Information Science from Lawrence University, Concordia University-Wisconsin, and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Interested in the minutia and licensing of streaming service content, he is always publishing lists, suggestions, and advocating for Disney’s missing library to be added to Disney+. Drew subscribes to Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, HBO Max, and Paramount+. You can find him waxing nostalgic over classic Disney Channel or geeking out over Marvel, CW shows, & Disney on Twitter.