Sneaky Deal: Disney and Walmart bundles feel worth it

Walmart is associating with Disney Paramount Plus to include the streaming service as part of Walmart Plus to better rival Amazon Prime.

The previous week, Hulu, Disney Plus, and ESPN Plus got hit with price hikes, and their parent organization, Disney, showed off two new bundles that seemed like a helluva deal.

For $14.99, you can acquire the ad-serving version of Hulu, Disney Plus, and ESPN Plus. For $19.99, you obtain Disney Plus and Hulu ad-free. That’s the exact price you’d expend for the best tier of Netflix with UHD support and up to four simultaneous streams, and it’s way more affordable than any of that assistance on their own.

Today’s most prominent companies have figured out what Comcast and Charter have known for years. Bundles are good.

Take the Disney bundle, for example. The ad-free bundle costs $6.66 per service if you use all three services. Given ESPN Plus with ads at $9.99, Disney Plus with no ads for $10.99, and Hulu with no ads avails at $14.99, that’s an excellent deal. You have to wonder why anyone even enjoys getting the services à la carte when the bundle is so affordable.

They’re meant to draw you with a whole array of choices and get you attached so you can never go the bundle — even as it goes up in expense.

And in a world where everyone owns a streaming service, a bundle allows the differentiation of one service from another. $19.99 paid to Netflix brings you one service you’ve been steadily delivering more for years, and specifically, it brings you the UHD version. The Disney bundle does not accomplish nickel and dime you on streaming quality; it just offers you three services for one.

And those services enclose nearly everything Marvel and Star Wars, most of the stuff Disney and Fox have produced, and the highlight reels sports people love.

Showtime and Paramount Plus hold a similar bundle. For $11.99 a month, you acquire both (with ads) for just a dollar more than you’d pay for Showtime by itself. In addition, Warner Bros. Discovery has presented some HBO Max users Discovery Plus for $0.99 a month, and if you subscribe to Verizon’s Unlimited strategy, you earn Discovery Plus for free.

Last week, reports arose that Walmart was eyeing partnerships with Comcast, Disney, and Paramount to complete their Walmart Plus subscription more appealing and compete with Amazon. Today, there’s a statement it’s inked a deal with Paramount Plus.

Pay for Walmart Plus and get the streaming service, home to Halo and Star Trek, for free. That’s a reaction not to Disney or Netflix but to Amazon, which currently bundles its Prime streaming service with its expedited shipping perk. Amazon also offered bundles with streaming services, including Starz and AMC Plus.

While you appreciate the bundles making some services cheaper — nice little add-ons you would have otherwise skipped — they also give you flashbacks to every negotiation you’ve ever had with an internet service provider to reduce your rates.

Cable companies are authentic bundle lovers. They can force you to spend on sports packages with your cord or phone service with your internet. As with Disney and the rest, the reasoning is the same: offer a bundle cheap enough that it makes more economic sense than the services à la carte. Cable businesses then try to keep you locked in forever.

For example, you have to keep the phone service you never employ because removing it from the internet bundle cranks up the price of your monthly bill. Or, someone in your family gets hooked on the free HBO in your current pile — compelling you to pay for it when the bundle deal ends.

It’s not surprising that the companies meant to disrupt the cable company are just gladly aping their records; it’s just a big bummer. In the early days of cord-cutting — when Hulu was still an upstart and hadn’t yet been bought by the many TV networks it threatened, torrents and Usenet were the most straightforward and best way to get TV shows online — the dream for cord-cutting was easy. People dreaded paying for all the channels bundled into their cable subscriptions. They wanted to choose the channels they liked and save some money. And many of us were tired of paying for sports channels we never watched.

Once or twice in the previous 15 years, we’ve gotten tantalizingly close to achieving that dream. But we’re in a new streaming era now, and the bundle, instead of being the thing we want to escape, maybe consumers’ best chance of keeping streaming costs down.