Disney CEO Bob Iger Places Future of Hulu in Comcast’s Lap: ‘I Can’t Really Say Where They’ll End Up’
After revealing that Disney+ and Hulu would be combined into one app offering by the end of the year, Disney CEO Bob Iger has suggested that the future of the hybrid subscription/ad-supported streamer remains in the hands of rival Comcast.
Under a 2019 put/call agreement, Disney can buy out the NBCUniversal parent’s 33% minority stake in Hulu as early as January 2024 – and Comcast can require that Disney do so. At the time, Disney guaranteed a minimum total equity value of $27.5 billion for Hulu, suggesting that Comcast’s share would be worth at least $9 billion. As of Oct. 1, 2022, Disney valued Comcast’s stake at $8.7 billion.
In February, Iger said that Disney was looking at Hulu “very, very carefully” and suggested that all options were on the table, including a potential sale. But on Wednesday, he acknowledged on the company’s earnings call that it has “not really been fully determined what will happen in that regard.”
“Everything was on the table but now I’ve had another three months to really study this carefully and figure out what is the best path for us to grow business and it’s clear that a combination of the content that is on Disney+ with general entertainment is a very strong combination from a subscriber perspective, from a subscriber acquisition, subscriber retention perspective and also from an advertisers perspective,” he explained. “So where we are headed is for one experience that would have general entertainment and Disney plus content together. How that ultimately unfolds is to some extent in the hands of Comcast and in the hands of a basically a conversation or a negotiation that we have with them. I don’t want to be in any way predictive in terms of when or how that ends up.”
According to Iger, Disney has already had “some conversations” with Comcast about the stake.
“They’ve been cordial and they’re aimed at being constructive, but I can’t really say where they’ll end up only to say that there seems to be real value in having general entertainment combined with Disney+ and ultimately Hulu is that solution that we’re bullish about,” he added.
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Comcast CEO Brian Roberts previously expressed interest in acquiring Disney’s two-thirds stake in Hulu should it go up for sale, while former NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell previously predicted that Disney would write a “big check” for Comcast’s minority Hulu stake.
When asked about the Hulu stake during Morgan Stanley’s Technology, Media & Telecomm Conference in March, Comcast president Mike Cavanagh noted that a “very clear and good agreement for a put call” was put in place in 2019 and that any other deal with Disney would have to be “better in our minds than that.”
Representatives for Comcast did not immediately return TheWrap’s request for comment.
Hulu added 200,000 subscribers during Disney’s second fiscal quarter of 2023 for a total of 48.2 million, including 43.7 million SVOD only subscribers and 4.4 million Hulu and Live TV subscribers.
Hulu’s SVOD-only average revenue per user fell 6% from $12.46 to $11.73 due to lower per-subscriber advertising revenue and a higher mix of subscribers to multi-product offerings, partially offset by an increase in average retail pricing. When combining SVOD with Live TV, Hulu’s ARPU climbed 5% from $87.90 to $92.32 primarily due to an increase in average retail pricing, partially offset by lower per-subscriber advertising revenue.
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