Disney Controls Hulu But Comcast Remains

Disney controls Hulu now. Comcast and Disney has announced an agreement that will give Disney full control of Hulu starting today. Yup, the circle is now complete. It’s part of a “put/call” deal that will allow either Disney or Comcast to force a sale of Comcast’s remaining 33 percent stake to Disney starting in January 2024.

As part of that deal, Comcast is also promising that Hulu will still get to carry NBCUniversal content as well as live stream NBCUniversal channels for Hulu’s live TV service until “late 2024.” It’s the kind of licensing deal for content that Disney CEO Bob Iger hinted would continue to exist under a Disney-owned Hulu earlier in the month.

Additionally, Comcast gets the chance to put shows on its own upcoming streaming service that are currently licensed exclusively to Hulu starting in one year, in exchange for reducing Hulu’s license fee for that content. Which allows Comcast to save money and can circle around to their own streaming service.

It’s the sort of deal that makes sense for both sides: Disney gets full control over Hulu today, instead of having to negotiate with Comcast over details or steamroll them aside with its existing majority stake (which could lose goodwill for the licensing agreements Disney wants to keep for all those NBC shows and Universal movies), and the option to mandate the sale of the final 33 percent that Comcast owns in 2024.

In the meantime, Disney can start to put its plans for Hulu in motion as part of the company’s grander streaming ambitions (including potential bundles with Disney+ and ESPN+) while still keeping all the Comcast content.

Comcast gets a guaranteed minimum sale price for its Hulu stake in 2024, no doubt hoping that Bob Iger’s golden touch will cause a Disney-owned Hulu to jump in value (increasing Comcast’s take if it does sell) and the freedom to put its Hulu-exclusive shows on its own streaming platform next year when it does launch.

The big question, of course, is: what will happen in 2024 when Comcast has the freedom to pull all its NBCUniversal content from Hulu? Will customers still want Hulu if its just Disney-owned content? (It’s a portfolio that’s admittedly grown larger than ever, thanks to the recent Fox deal.)

The Comcast deal today marks the final piece of the puzzle for Disney, which has rapidly assumed total control over Hulu in an incredibly short amount of time: at this time last year, Hulu was owned evenly by Disney, Fox, and Comcast (with a 30 percent stake each) along with a minority 10 percent stake owned by AT&T. Flash-forward to today, and Disney has bought Fox’s stake, AT&T jumped ship , So Disney controls Hulu.

It has been rumored that Disney will not stream content that would harm the brand. With all of Fox and their Disney substidies like Hollywood Pictures and Touchstone Pictures, Hulu would make a solid streaming option for people that maybe don’t want the child-nerd-comic friend service. Especially with their current $5.99 monthly fee, but as of right now Disney controls Hulu.

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