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Disney takes full operational control of Hulu

By Jacob Oller

It only took a few weeks for the negotiations to get hammered out between Comcast and Disney, the corporate owners of Hulu. Now it seems that Disney+ (and to a lesser extent ESPN+) aren’t the only streaming services the House of Mouse will control. Disney’s spending spree started with Star Wars and Marvel, then encompassed 21st Century Fox, which has led directly to Hulu.

According to Deadline, Disney and Comcast struck a “put/call” agreement for the latter’s remaining 33 percent stake in Hulu. That means a lot of things, but first it means that as of today, Disney is in “full operational control of Hulu, effective immediately.” With a new slate of Marvel shows coming to both Disney+ and Hulu, watching over their first-party investments is just one attractive element of the deal. Hulu has become a respected streaming competitor in its own right thanks in part to breakout genre hits like The Handmaid’s Tale and Castle Rock.

Hulu could stand as a more mature streamer compared to Disney’s family-friendly Disney+, but none of that will be changing until at least 2024. 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. That’s far over the amount recently appraised ($4.5B) but strategy has to be accounted for — as Disney’s paying for control more than simply shares.

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. Hulu will still have the licence to NBCUniversal shows and be able to show NBCUniversal channels on Hulu Live until late 2024 under the agreement, while Comcast will still be able to include Hulu on the Xfinity X1 platform.

The Wild West of streaming is settling, the land is being bought up, and the saloons are being closed. As the dust settles, it’ll soon be apparent how Disney’s gambles pay off.

Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal, which owns SYFY WIRE.

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