One of the most popular streaming services in the world, Hulu, might have its ownership dispute resolved sooner than anticipated.
At an investor conference on Wednesday, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts announced the company’s decision to expedite discussions with The Walt Disney Company, which owns the vast majority of Hulu.
Mr. Roberts said that the official evaluation process for Hulu’s valuation will commence on September 30, at which time Comcast and Disney would finish their talks over the value of Hulu. After January, that procedure was supposed to be through with.
The comments made by Mr. Roberts were an uncommon look into the high-stakes discussions between Comcast and Disney about the future of the streaming service. Hulu’s massive user base of more than 48 million makes it a potent tool in the battle for streaming domination.
The current issue is determining the value of the business. Disney and Comcast had previously reached an agreement wherein Disney may demand that Comcast sell its 33% ownership in Hulu at a price that values the whole business at no less than $27.5 billion. Disney might be forced to buy out Comcast’s interest if the price is high enough.
Mr. Roberts said on Wednesday that in Comcast’s opinion, Hulu is worth far more than $27.5 billion. Mr. Roberts described Hulu as a “kingmaker asset,” saying that if the streaming service were put up for sale in an open auction, it would certainly attract bids that included deep-pocketed technology giants.
Mr. Roberts said that Comcast planned to reinvest part of the deal’s revenues into the company’s share repurchase programme, benefiting the shareholders.
Hulu, founded in 2007, was an up-and-coming start-up supported by rival media conglomerates such as 21st Century Fox, Comcast’s NBCUniversal, Disney, and Time Warner.
Owners of Hulu anticipated that by pooling their resources, they might create a community hedge against the growing influence of the internet, like Switzerland for streaming.
However, as Hulu expanded, fewer people had a stake in the company. Following Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment holdings, AT&T gave back to Hulu its 10% interest in 2019, thereby giving Disney full control of Hulu. Disney was in a prime position to acquire all of Comcast’s shares as a result.
Following its acquisition of 21st Century Fox, Disney made clear it planned to acquire Comcast’s stake in Hulu, completing a streaming package that already includes Disney+, the Disney-focused streaming service, and the sports-focused streaming service ESPN+. Disney CEO Bob Iger said in an interview with CNBC earlier this year that “everything was on the table” in terms of the company’s future plans for Hulu, hinting that a sale of the company’s majority ownership was also possible.