Even with all the hype surrounding Disney+, which is reportedly the Walt Disney Company‘s #1 priority, Disney is expanding its streaming domination in a different direction. Upon purchasing 21st Century Fox, Disney became the 60% controlling shareholder of Hulu. Now comes word that Disney may wind up owning 90% as Comcast is considering selling its 30% shares to the Mouse Powerhouse. Reportedly, Disney and Comcast are in talks right now, with Comcast weighing the pros and cons of selling now versus later.
Last week, Hulu– which is still its own company– bought back the 9.5% stake owned by AT&T, owner of Time Warner. That percentage will be divided between Disney and Comcast unless Disney buys out Comcast and becomes the sole owner of Hulu.
Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said:
“On Hulu, the relationship with NBC, it’s very much in everybody’s interest to maintain. And we have no new news today on it, other than it’s really valuable. And we’re really glad we own a large piece of it.”
Comcast was previously a silent partner with 21st Century Fox and Disney, but once Disney bought Fox, it is no longer an equal partner.
In January, NBC CEO Steve Burke said:
“Fifty years from now will we be in Hulu? No, I don’t think we will. But I don’t think we’ll sell in five minutes.”
NBC currently supplies 17% of Hulu’s content, including same-season programming.
As for what Comcast should do, that is debatable. While they own a minority share compared to Disney’s 60%, they do still have some say in the company’s direction. However, currently, Hulu has fewer than half the subscribers Netflix does, which is 58 million in the United States. Hulu is expected to lose $1.5 billion this year.
And Comcast recently purchased the European streaming service Sky, for $39 billion. Selling its shares of Hulu could help offset that, and would offset any losses that Hulu itself incurs. Hulu’s valuation is $15 billion. Comcast could sell its shares to Disney for $4.5 billion. Comcast also has a total of $100 billion in debt.
As for Disney, true they could own all of Hulu, but with such major plans for Disney+, do they really want it? True, Hulu can be used to offer mature content, which will not be offered through Disney+. But it is possible with all of its high-profile, big-budget ‘Star Wars’ and Marvel offerings, adult fans could still flock to Disney+ even without all the nudity, violence, and cussin’.
You may recall that Comcast attempted to outbid Disney to buy Fox last year, but after driving the selling price up, it backed down. So… that probably isn’t helping negotiations.
Either way, neither Disney nor Comcast are ready to comment on the record.