Bob Iger calls the custody battle between Disney, Comcast, and Hulu “very tricky.” Does either company want to own the streaming service?
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When Disney acquired 20th Century Fox in 2019, a large part of Hulu came with it. Thus, Disney became the largest shareholder of the streaming service, owning two-thirds of it. This was a win for Disney as they needed the content to compete with Netflix back when their Disney+ bundle was first released. However, the bulk of the remaining shares has always been in the hands of Comcast (33% stake).
Soon, it will be time for Disney to commit to Hulu fully. In 2024, Comcast can demand The Walt Disney Company to completely buy out their shares in a put option, which would give Disney full ownership of the streaming service. But the price won’t come cheap. Once the deal is made, Disney must dig deep into their pockets and fork over $9 billion.
It seems as though Iger doesn’t want any buyer’s remorse since he carefully expressed in a Morgan Stanley interview earlier today that they are studying the company very closely for now so they can come to a conclusion.
“The environment is very, very tricky right now. Before we make any big decisions about our investment level and commitment to that business, we want to understand where it could go,” Iger said.
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Although Iger believes the future of television will eventually be 100% streaming, he doesn’t think it’s there just yet. He added, “The whole streaming business — other than Netflix, which is relatively mature — is a nascent business for most of us. And we’re also at an interesting point in the world, from a media perspective, where a lot of people are still getting linear programming.”
With this update, Hulu’s future is becoming more uncertain and somewhat of a mystery. Disney is not expressing any excitement over the ownership, instead approaching it more reluctantly. The two companies are waiting for the other to pick up the bill at the end of dinner.
At one point or another, Comcast had shown interest in altogether buying out Disney, but some speculate it was just a move to drive up the price. Comcast seems more geared toward selling it all to the House of Mouse.
Iger did also mention the pros of Hulu. “We have very strong original programming … and we also have a good library,” said the CEO. He added, “it’s a very attractive platform for advertisers.”
If Disney gets stuck with the bill, it won’t be the worst case in the world. Hulu is quite a successful streaming service, with 48 million subscribers as of last year. And with full ownership of the company, Disney will most likely not want to disappoint them by getting rid of the platform altogether.
Would you like to see Disney take full ownership of Hulu? Let us know in the comments below.