Disney has assumed full operational control of Hulu from Comcast, in return for both companies entering into a “put/call” agreement regarding NBCUniversal’s 33% ownership interest in Hulu.
Comcast, which owns a third of Hulu, will only sell its stake to Disney starting in 2024, and will be a silent investor until then. Hulu’s fair market value will be assessed by independent experts but Disney has guaranteed a sale price for Comcast that represents a minimum total equity value of Hulu at that time of $27.5 billion, Disney announced in a press release.
“Hulu represents the best of television, with its incredible array of award-winning original content, rich library of popular series and movies, and live TV offerings. We are now able to completely integrate Hulu into our direct-to-consumer business and leverage the full power of The Walt Disney Company’s brands and creative engines to make the service even more compelling and a greater value for consumers,” said Disney chairman and CEO, Bob Iger.
In April, AT&T sold its 9.5% stake in Hulu to Disney and NBCU for $1.43 billion, valuing Hulu at $15 billion. Disney and Comcast agreed to allocate that purchase on a pro-rata basis, giving Disney a 66% ownership and Comcast/NBCU a 33% equity stake. Disney secured 60% ownership of Hulu after it acquired the entertainment assets of 21st Century Fox for $71 billion, and was in talks with Comcast ever since to secure 100% of the company.
In addition to the put/call agreement, Comcast has agreed with Hulu to extend the Hulu license of NBCUniversal content and the Hulu Live carriage agreement for NBCUniversal channels until late 2024 and to distribute Hulu on its Xfinity X1 platform. NBCUniversal can terminate most of its content license agreements with Hulu in three years’ time, and in one year’s time NBCUniversal will have the right to exhibit on its own OTT service certain content that it currently licenses exclusively to Hulu in return for reducing the license fee payable by Hulu.
Hulu was launched more than a decade ago as the major entertainment companies dealt with the rise of digital media. While YouTube became a home for digital video, Netflix built up a streaming library of back seasons of popular TV shows and movies, and Hulu made TV episodes from networks such as ABC, NBC and Fox available online after they aired on TV. Hulu today still shows network TV episodes and original series for $6 a month. It has a newer, cable-like service with live TV channels for $45 a month. terest in Hulu.
As part of its programming, Hulu offers shows that currently air on NBC, such as “This is Us” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” shortly after they appear on TV, Bloomberg reported. It also offers reruns of older shows from NBCUniversal’s library. The deal is structured to further NBC’s streaming ambitions as well. As part of the accord, NBC negotiated the rights to show almost everything it now licenses exclusively to Hulu on its own upcoming streaming service, which debuts next year, meaning the services will share those programmes. The only exceptions are three original series that NBCUniversal made for Hulu -- “The Act,” “The Past” and “Difficult People” which will stay solely on Hulu.