Disney Television Group President Craig Erwich Talks Harmonious Relationship Between Streamers (Disney+ & Hulu) and Broadcast Networks (ABC, Freeform, Disney Channel)

Craig Erwich, President of Disney Television Group, took the stage at the TCA Winter Press Tour today, fielding questions about the state of the brands that fall under his purview – ABC, Freeform, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney+, and Hulu. When looking to the future of the industry, one of the biggest reveals was the success of broadcasting the first season of Hulu’s Only Murders in the Building on ABC, which introduced the series to 11 million individuals, most of whom had no previous exposure to the series. That fed back over to the streaming platform, where first streams of the series increased by $40%. It was an example of how Disney is uniquely positioned to leverage both broadcast and streaming models in a way where they don’t cannibalize each other.



“We will certainly look very opportunistically through all of our schedules and our platforms to make sure that these shows reach the widest audience that they can,” Craig Erwish said in response to my question. I had followed up on the Only Murders in the Building news, a series that was a hit on Hulu and wasn’t necessarily in need of a broadcast boost, although that didn’t hurt Hulu at all. I was more curious about the shows that didn’t find the right audience on a streaming platform. The example I specifically used was American Born Chinese, which was based on a popular graphic novel and had an all-star cast headlined by recent Oscar winners Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Kwan. The cancellation notice was revealed on January 7th, just days after ABC aired its first episode of Only Murders in the Building.

This press conference came ahead of Hulu’s widespread integration into Disney+ this March, which is currently in beta testing. One of the opportunities is the fact that it will bring together every season of Grey’s Anatomy for the first time on one platform, including the newest episodes from Season 20. “I'm really looking forward to when Grey's comes on, and we get the past seasons on Disney+, that seamless experience, so that when people who are still starting on episode one, twenty seasons ago, can watch it all the way through and then be current and participate in the conversation that the show generates on a weekly basis.”

“Most of the viewing of Freeform shows actually happens on Hulu,” Craig revealed when asked about a Disney-owned network, which has exhibited a decline in scripted original content. “What's interesting about Freeform is it's not just original programming where they have their success. We have a really creative and inventive slate of movies that we promote a lot. 25 Days of Christmas is a massive event for Freeform and the audience. Over half of the movies on cable in December of the top-rated movies were Freeform movies. So we're going to continue to service that audience through a variety of methods.” Craig also pointed to the recent launch of Chrissy & Dave Dine Out and an upcoming unscripted series called Royal Rules of Ohio.

“I'm really excited about an upcoming show we'll have next fall, High Potential, which I think is one of the best ABC shows I've seen since I've been there,” Craig shared, having been in charge of the network since 2020. But with this TCA Winter Press Tour primarily focusing on shows that will reach viewers by the summer, his focus was mostly on some of the quickest shows to launch. The Rookie is about to enter its sixth season and reach its 100th episode milestone, a show that is the second most popular drama on Hulu, garnering 500 million views on the platform, half of which occurred within the past year. And with 9-1-1 moving to ABC from FOX, he’s looking forward to how those two shows will complement each other after the cancellation of The Rookie: Feds.

Ending on a positive note, Craig’s favorite story from 2023 was about Disney Junior and Disney+. “Suits was the most-watched show, we all know this,” he prefaced. “The second most-watched show in that equation was Bluey. How amazing is that? Bluey on Disney+ was the second most-watched show of 2023. And that's especially impressive considering an episode of Suits is 44 minutes versus Bluey at just seven minutes. And Bluey has just dethroned Cocomelon as the No. 1 most-watched series for kids.”

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Alex Reif
Alex joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and has been a lifelong Disney fan. His main beats for LP are Disney-branded movies, TV shows, books, music and toys. He recently became a member of the Television Critics Association (TCA).