As many people know, back in 2019, Disney purchased 20th Century Fox. The acquisition gave Disney ownership over major film franchises like Ice Age, as well as iconic television series like The Simpsons. What some may not know is that the Fox purchase also gave Disney 60% ownership in the streaming service Hulu. Since 2019, Hulu has only grown in popularity, with hit shows like The Handmaid’s Tale, Only Murders in the Building, and Dopesick and movies like The United States Vs. Billie Holiday, Run, and Palm Springs.
Hulu is definitely increasing in the ranks in terms of money it brings to The Walt Disney Company. It also brings a good amount of money to its other owner — the communications company, Comcast, which owns its stake through NBCUniversal. Both Disney and Comcast have owned Hulu since 2019, with Disney having a 67% stake and Comcast having a 33% stake. However, it looks like a battle for the streamer could quietly be brewing.
Recently, Walt Disney CEO Bob Chapek said that he would like Disney to own 100% of Hulu “tomorrow”, but there is someone else who wants to own 100% of the streamer — Comcast CEO Brian Roberts. Both men were at the Goldman Sachs’ Communacopia + Technology Conference 2022, where the topic of Hulu was brought up. Roberts stated that Hulu has “tremendous value”.
Roberts’ comments were reported by Variety:
The Comcast chairman and CEO called Hulu a “phenomenal business” — and said that if Disney were willing to sell it, the cable and media giant would be interested in buying it out.
“Hulu’s a phenomenal business. Its scale is fantastic. It has wonderful content,” Roberts said, speaking Wednesday at Goldman Sachs’ Communacopia + Technology Conference 2022 in San Francisco. “If it was up for sale, Comcast would be interested” in buying 100% of Hulu, and “others would I think as well.”
Disney CEO Bob Chapek spoke to CNBC about Disney’s desire to have full ownership of the popular streamer:
“I would like nothing more than to come up with that solution for an early agreement,. But that takes two parties to come up with something that is mutually agreeable.”
“There’s a floor price too, right?” Chapek said. “Which, you know, wasn’t even relevant 18 months ago, when there’s still frothiness in the streaming business, but now that things have kind of calmed down a lot, that floor value looks a lot more [relevant].”
Now, it is important to note that Comcast has an existing agreement with Disney to sell its minority stake in Hulu as early as 2024. However, 2024 is not a hard deadline. So, Roberts may be showing more interest in Comcast acquiring Hulu to drive up the purchase price when Comcast/NBCUniversal does finally decide to sell its minority share.
2024 is only a couple of years away and a lot can happen between then and now, but it will be interesting to see how hard Chapek and Disney strive to make a deal and how willing Roberts and Comcast are to play ball.