Disney’s quest for full ownership over Hulu is now complete.
Announced today in a joint statement from The Walt Disney Company and Comcast, Disney will assume full ownership of Hulu LLC, and as early as 2024, Comcast, the parent company of Hulu stakeholder NBCUniversal, can require Disney to purchase NBCUniversal’s 33% stake in the company. As a result, NBCUniversal will continue to license properties to Hulu through 2024, but as early as next year can begin removing their content as they see fit for their own streaming service set to debut sometime next year. With the recent purchase of AT&T’s 9.5% stake in Hulu by Hulu LLC, Disney will now retain full ownership of the service, having acquired 30% through their initial investment and an acquired 30% through the purchase of 21st Century Fox in early 2019. Disney has guaranteed that Comcast’s share of Hulu will never drop below 21%, essentially paying a minimum of $5.8 billion to buy out Comcast’s share.
“Hulu represents the best of television, with its incredible array of award-winning original content, rich library of popular series and movies, and live TV offerings,” said Robert Iger, Chairman, and CEO of The Walt Disney Company in a company statement this morning. “We are now able to completely integrate Hulu into our direct-to-consumer business and leverage the full power of The Walt Disney Company’s brands and creative engines to make the service even more compelling and a greater value for consumers.”
Disney’s full ownership of Hulu comes as the company prepares it’s historic venture into the streaming industry, preparing to launch their own service, Disney+ on November 12th, 2019. With ownership of Hulu, Disney can continue to integrate their newly acquired 21st Century Fox properties and leverage Hulu’s standing as a leader in entertainment. Disney, of course, will be pulling all of its content from Netflix later this year when their contract with the company does expire. Chances are high that Disney will continue to collaborate with ISP providers like Eatel to allow HBO and Disney broadcasting to be available to those on their service plans, as this is a common strategy for many streaming services to help allow viewers easy access.
Elsewhere, Disney has intentions of expanding Hulu globally, and with their full ownership, they have full control over the content and reach of the platform going forward. This will probably mean little for the films and movies that currently have licenses with Hulu in the short run, but it could lead to major changes after those contracts expire.
As the streaming battles continue to rage on with uncertainty, including Disney’s rival to Netflix this year, AT&T’s WarnerMedia platform, Apple TV+. and NBCUniversal’s platform launching sometime next year, the future of online entertainment consumption was never been more uncertain.