Ever since Disney picked up a majority stake in Hulu when it purchased 20th Century Fox, there have been questions about the streaming service’s future. With Disney CEO Bob Chapek recently calling the “Disney Bundle” of Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ as not ideal, as Disney is forced to split its content studio output into two streaming funnels.
Disney and Comcast have an agreement made in 2019, that would see Comcast forced to sell its share in the streaming service in 2024 for a minimum of $27.5 billion. The contract was made after the Walt Disney Company purchased 20th Century Fox, increasing its ownership in the streaming service to 60%. With a further deal being done to buy out WarnerMedia’s 10%, resulting in Disney owning 66% of Hulu.
During a recent quarterly investors briefing, Comcast executives told Wall Street analysts that they are in no rush to sell its 30% stake of Hulu to Disney.
Ever since Disney and Comcast launched their own streaming services, Disney+ and Peacock, there has been speculation that Comcast’s stake in Hulu would be sold to Disney sooner rather than later. However, according to Comcast chief financial officer Mike Cavanagh, there indicated there was no hurry and described Hulu as a “great business” that is active in one of the “hottest areas” for media, subscription streaming.
“We’re happy to be along for that ride. I’m glad we didn’t exit at the time three or so years ago. I like the deal we have… It’ll be fine if we stay until the end because I expect the value to keep increasing.”
Hulu has only recently become profitable for the first time, and because Comcast owns 33% of Hulu, was one of the main reasons Disney decided to cancel any plans to take the streaming service international, adding its general entertainment brand Star into Disney+ in many regions and launching Star+ in Latin America. As launching Hulu internationally, would have just cost them more in the long run, since any growth in the streaming platform, would ultimately come back to bite them.
While many Disney+ subscribers in the United States would prefer to have a simplified streaming service, with all of Disney’s content within Disney+, it looks like Hulu will be sticking around for a while yet. Unless, Disney is willing to pay a premium to get the deal with Comcast done earlier. Right now, Disney is stuck with Comcast as a co-owner, until 2024.
Only last month, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference that Hulu was causing an issue for Peacock.
“We inherited a company a decade ago that had committed really all of its content to Hulu. And all that content still resides on Hulu. So the biggest and best, most relevant part of our content, at least from television … are all licensed away, and that can change over time. And of course, we own one-third of (Hulu) … So we’re looking at each successive decision as to how to invest in Peacock versus what I just said previously, continue to invest in other people’s platforms.”
Comcast can start moving away some of its content from 2022, but ultimately, it looks like Comcast is trying to force Disney to make a bigger offer, so they can get out of this deal earlier.
Do you think Comcast should sell its stake in Hulu to Disney sooner?
Roger has been a Disney fan since he was a kid and this interest has grown over the years. He has visited Disney Parks around the globe and has a vast collection of Disney movies and collectibles. He is the owner of What's On Disney Plus & DisKingdom.