Monday, 27 May, 2019

Disney takes full control of Hulu as Comcast steps aside

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Lora Ball | 14 May, 2019, 18:25

Disney and Comcast announced a deal under which Disney will assume full operational control of Hulu, effective immediately. In turn, Disney and Comcast have entered a "put/call" agreement-that means that, as early as January 2024, Comcast can require Disney to buy NBCUniversal's 33-percent interest in Hulu.

By establishing an expiration date of five years from now, Comcast is betting the value of its stake will appreciate significantly as Disney prepares unencumbered to expand the scope and reach of Hulu in the domestic and global markets to battle the likes of Netflix, Amazon.com Inc and Apple Inc. Hulu's fair market value will be assessed by independent experts but Disney has guaranteed a sale price for Comcast that represents a minimum total equity value of Hulu at that time of $27.5 billion. But once the entire stake is owned by Disney, that will give the House of Mouse an overall 93% controlling stake in the streaming service.

NBCUniversal, too, will debut a streaming service in 2020. With ownership of Hulu, Disney now has a separate, more adult-oriented outlet for its library of films and television shows (which now includes 20th Century Fox films and shows), as well as new streaming series.

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Comcast has agreed to extend the Hulu license of NBCU content and the carriage agreement for Hulu's live TV service for NBCU channels until late 2024 and also to distribute Hulu on its Xfinity X1 platform. When Hulu make that deal in April, it was rumored that Comcast would allow Disney to acquire whatever part of Hulu it still owned.

Disney and Comcast also said they had agreed to fund Hulu's recent buyout of AT&T's 9.5% interest in the company. NBCUniversal can cut off its content for Hulu within three years, if no new agreement exists.

Comcast acquired NBCUniversal back in 2011 with a consent decree that it wouldn't have a say in Hulu's direction.

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