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.
Even though Comcast is pulling up stakes as an owner, the company’s NBCUniversal programming won’t be leaving Hulu anytime soon. Comcast agreed to extend the Hulu license to NBCUniversal content and the Hulu Live agreement for NBCUniversal channels until late 2024. Comcast will also continue to distribute Hulu on its Xfinity X1 cable-TV platform.
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.
The move is the latest in a dizzying series of ownership changes for Hulu, after the streaming service started 2019 owned by four companies. Disney’s $71.3 billion takeover of 21st Century Fox combined their stakes, and gave Disney a majority hold over Hulu. And last month, AT&T agreed to sell back the 9.5% share it owned via its unit WarnerMedia. That left Comcast and Disney standing.
The Hulu deal also comes as Disney is embarking on an ambitious streaming initiative. Last month, Disney detailed its plans for Disney Plus, which is meant to be Disney’s family-friend companion service to its offering of Hulu as the home for more adult-oriented fare. Disney Plus will launch on Nov. 12 in the US.
Though Comcast won’t be pulling its content off Hulu soon, in one year it has the right to begin streaming some of its own content on NBC’s own free streaming service, even if right now that content is supposed to be exclusive to Hulu. That NBC streaming service is expected to launch next year.
In three years, NBCUniversal can terminate most of its licensing agreements with Hulu, if it chooses.
Disney’s deal with Comcast is a complicated procedre known as a “put/call” agreement that will take place over several years. Ultimately, Disney guaranteed it would buy NBCUniversal’s 33% stake in Hulu at a price that, at minimum, would value Hulu at $27.5 billion as of early 2024. AT&T’s deal selling back its 10% stake last month — a much more straightforward purchase — valued Hulu at $15 billion today.
Hulu has more than, operating only in the US. Netflix, by comparison, has nearly 150 million subscribers worldwide.