Disney takes over Hulu; streaming fight

Comcast sells Hulu to Disney for at least $5.8 billion as streaming wars heat up. Deal may not close till 2024

According to the agreement, Disney can demand Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal, sell the remaining stake to Disney for its fair market value in the future.

Furthermore, Comcast also agreed to extend Hulu's 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.

Last month, Hulu bought back AT&T's stake in the streaming service for an eye-watering $1.43 billion, but now Comcast is ceding its control to Disney, which will attain complete control of Hulu going forward.

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And with Disney taking control of Hulu, that gives the entertainment giant more flexibility to offer things like discounted bundles of Hulu and Disney Plus, its forthcoming $7-a-month Netflix-like service.

In three years, NBCUniversal can terminate most of its licensing agreements with Hulu, if it chooses. It's a free service and therefore will rely on ad-supported content to generate a profit. And while NBC may no longer have to settle for one-third its revenue potential as it did with Hulu, it will need a cunning content and marketing strategy to make its own service sustainable.

Disney CEO Bob Iger said in a media call Tuesday that the deal gives the company the ability to bundle its streaming services easily, meaning consumers can buy one, two or all three of its platforms. Whether Comcast funds its share of those equity capital calls or not, Disney has agreed that Comcast's ownership interest in Hulu will never be less than 21% such that Comcast is guaranteed to receive at least $5.8 billion under the put/call agreement.

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The accord announced Tuesday represents a big bet by Disney on continued rapid growth for Hulu, home of original hits such as "The Handmaid's Tale". And that's not to mention all the R-rated Fox films that can be put on Hulu instead of Disney+.

Disney has already made clear that Hulu will be a critical part of its streaming strategy. "Disney expects Hulu will reach 40-60 million domestic subscribers in five years, suggesting 150 million global customers, based on a 33% domestic split", Bloomberg Intelligence media analyst Geetha Ranganathan says.

AT&T's sale valued the unprofitable Hulu at $15 billion.

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