Disney takes full control of Hulu as Comcast steps aside

Brenda Watkins
May 14, 2019

For the first time in Hulu's history, the streaming video service will be run under a single company: Disney agreed to buy Comcast's 33% share of Hulu Tuesday, putting Disney in full control of the popular service. Under the agreement, Comcast can require Disney to buy NBCUniversal's remaining interests in Hulu as early as January 2024.

By establishing an expiration date of five years from now, Comcast is betting the value of its stake will appreciate significantly as Disney prepares unencumbered to expand the scope and reach of Hulu in the domestic and global markets to battle the likes of Netflix, Amazon.com Inc and Apple Inc. Until that point, NBCUniversal remains a part-owner in Hulu even though Disney will be steering the ship.

The Disney takeover continues. That has given Comcast a big stake in how the streaming platform is operated, including how NBCUniversal shows like 30 Rock and Seinfeld are licensed. We do have a lowest-possible figure already, mind. Within five years, Comcast has agreed to sell its Hulu stake to Disney for at least $9.2 billion.

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Disney's deal with Comcast is a complicated procedre known as a "put/call" agreement that will take place over several years. But once the entire stake is owned by Disney, that will give the House of Mouse an overall 93% controlling stake in the streaming service. This goes for on-demand content as well as Hulu Live.

Disney may bundle Hulu with its upcoming kids-focused streaming service, Disney Plus, and its sports service, ESPN Plus, executives said last week. However, NBCUniversal can terminate most of its content license agreements after that three-year period.

At the same time, Marvel projects produced by Disney's TV divisions were still getting the green light at Hulu before the new announcement: Ghost Rider with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. actor Gabriel Luna, Helstrom, Marvel's M.O.D.O.K., Marvel's Hit-Monkey, Marvel's Tigra & Dazzler Show, and Marvel's Howard The Duck.

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