It Looks Like Disney Is Poised To Take Over Hulu

Photo: Dan Goodman, AP

Disney may be staring down an opportunity gobble up Comcast’s 30 per cent stake in Hulu, according to a new report, which would bring Disney’s share in the streaming service to 90 per cent.

Citing sources familiar with the matter, CNBC reported Thursday that Disney and Comcast are in talks for a deal, adding that the latter “is now weighing the pros and cons of doing a deal now rather than later.” CNBC said it’s unclear whether the deal will go through, and Comcast declined to comment.

However, the report does raise some interesting questions about Hulu’s future as Disney gears up to launch its mammoth streaming service Disney+ later this year.

Namely, what the hell is going to happen to Hulu if Comcast pulls programs by NBCUniversal — which it acquired in 2011—particularly with NBC’s own streaming service on the way? According to CNBC’s sources, those shows will remain on Hulu:

As of today, NBC provides about 17% of Hulu’s content. NBC has no plans to remove content from Hulu, which will continue to serve as NBC’s vessel for same-season shows even after the launch of the company’s new streaming service in 2020, according to people familiar with the matter. (NBC’s streaming service will showcase the company’s library of TV shows and movies.)

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts didn’t exactly give a clear indication of which direction a possible deal with Disney was headed during a Thursday earnings call. However with respect to Hulu’s relationship with NBC, he said it “is very much in everybody’s interest to maintain. And we’re—have no new news today on it, other than [Hulu is] really valuable. And we’re really glad we own a large piece of it.”

Neither Disney nor Hulu immediately returned requests for comment.

Walt Disney Company Chief Executive and Chairman Robert Iger has been pretty explicit in stating that Hulu will remain a different streaming product than Disney+, which will be focused primarily on family-friendly material (this is, after all, Disney). Iger also said during an earnings call in November that the company planned to invest in more original series for Hulu.

“Given the success of Hulu so far in terms of subscriber growth and the relative brand strength and other things too like demographics, we think there’s an opportunity to increase investment in Hulu notably on the programming side,” Iger said at the time, per the Verge.

Basically, Hulu will continue to be Hulu — at least for the foreseeable future. It would be cool if Disney+ decided to just roll Hulu’s programming into Disney+ (and stopped calling it that) for one mega-streaming platform. I mean, Pixar, Star Wars, and Marvel, National Geographic, and all of Hulu? Take all of my money.

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