After taking over 21st Century Fox, Disney's buying streak continues to burn. This time around, it may end up fully owning video streaming platform Hulu — and with a new agreement signed today with Comcast, it may be able to do so as early as 2024 at a cost of at least $27.5 billion.
The contract takes away voting rights from the board members representing Comcast subsidiary NBCUniversal, which owns a 33% share in Hulu, and effectively gives the only other stakeholder, Disney, full operational control of the service. Disney has allowed Comcast the option not to purchase any part of the 9.5% share of Hulu that AT&T sold last month.
From January 2024, either Comcast or Disney can oblige the other side to begin the sales process — independent auditors will determine the final valuation of Comcast's stake, though Disney has guaranteed a floor price of $27.5 billion. If things change between now and when a sale may begin, the agreement states that Comcast's stake will never fall below 21% with a minimum valuation of $5.8 billion.
NBC will still have its original series and live broadcast channels available on Hulu until at least late 2024. Conversely, Comcast will continue to offer Hulu as part of its wireline TV bundles to consumers. However, NBC has options to terminate most of its content licensing agreements to Hulu from May 2022 and to show content originally destined for Hulu on its own over-the-top service from May 2020 in return for a reduced license fee.
This sets Disney on the road to owning the largest streaming platform only second to Netflix. But it will also be managing its own Disney+ streaming service featuring content from its wide array of owned properties from November this year. Customers will be able to pay $6.99 per month to see programming from Disney, Marvel, National Geographic, Pixar, and the Star Wars franchise. From the looks of it, we may continue to see shows from ABC as well as outsider producers populate Hulu's lineup long after November. Disney gets a nice twofer here.
As said above for NBC, it may be left playing catch-up with its rival networks in the OTT scene. Hulu reported that it had more than 28 million subscribers at the end of the first quarter. During its fourth quarter earnings call, CBS implied that its All Access scheme had about 4 million subscribers. 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.