Disney is taking full control of Hulu from Comcast, as both companies prepare to launch their own streaming services in response to declining audiences for traditional TV. That's when the put/call deal can effectively make Disney buy Comcast's interest in Hulu, while Disney can require Comcast to sell at fair market value - a minimum of $27.5B.
Last month Disney unveiled their streaming service, Disney+, and this morning it's been announced they now have full control over another major streaming platform - Hulu.
Last month, Hulu said it had bought back telecommunications and media company AT&T Inc's stake in the US entertainment streaming service for $1.43 billion, in a deal that valued Hulu at $15 billion. Comcast has also agreed to fund Hulu's recent buyout of AT&T's 9.5% interest in the company. "Disney expects Hulu will reach 40-60 million domestic subscribers in five years, suggesting 150 million global customers, based on a 33% domestic split", Bloomberg Intelligence media analyst Geetha Ranganathan says. In return, Hulu Live can continue to enjoy access to NBCUniversal channels until 2024 and Hulu will continue to be offered through Comcast's Xfinity X1 platform. Disney has forecast that Hulu will turn a profit around then. According to Laughing Place's live blog of the event, Iger revealed that Disney hopes to manage customers across Hulu, Disney+, and ESPN+, its three big streaming services.
Now that Disney and Comcast are the only stakeholders (since Hulu recently bought out AT&T), a deal seemed inevitable since the former is on a digital quest for streaming Manifest Destiny. At $6.99 for their basic Disney+ streaming plan and options to also bundle at, perhaps, similarly cheap rates, it may not be much of a competition once Disney officially enters the mix this fall.
It's not a surprise that NBCUniversal would want to reserve some of its content for its own streaming service, which it said earlier this year would launch in 2020.
Disney has already made clear that Hulu will be a critical part of its streaming strategy. Comcast's NBCUniversal will have the right to cancel most of its content-licensing agreements with Hulu by the year 2022 as a part of this deal.