It’s not just Disney films that suggest we should all be one happy family — it’s now the company itself, too.
When Disney coughed up $71.3 billion to purchase 21 Century Fox assets, they got a sizable stake of media land to call their own, including FX, National Geographic, and a majority stake in Hulu. It almost made their takeover of the Star Wars franchise looks small by comparison. But now, Disney is ready to elevate its throne even higher by assuming full operational control of Hulu.
This morning, Disney announced that it has entered into an agreement with Comcast NBCUniversal that allows Disney to be the controlling shareholder of the streaming service effective immediately. According to Variety, NBCU will maintain a 33% ownership through January 2024, after which time Disney can require NBCU to sell its remaining interest.
How much would it cost? Well, Disney said it wouldn’t value Hulu for less than $27.5 billion, which means NBCU’s stake would be worth at least $9 billion.
Disney didn’t buy into Hulu until 2009, but acquiring the Fox assets nearly a decade later allowed them to gain more ownership. However, NBCU was a founding stakeholder, allowing it to retain control over decisions about the fundamentals of Hulu’s business as well as three board seats, all of which will be vacated as part of the new deal with Disney.
With this new ownership path, Comcast can remain an owner for another five years, during which time it will probably launch its own ad-supported streaming service. As such, under the terms of the deal, NBCU can pull back programming exclusively licensed to Hulu as soon as next year. Then, beginning in 2022, NBCU can cancel its content-licensing deals outright.
“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 Disney CEO Bob Iger in a statement. “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.”
But doesn’t Disney already have its own streaming service, you ask? Why yes, it does. The long-awaited streaming service Disney+ will launch on November 12th of this year with 400 movies, 7,500 TV episodes, and brand new features. The plan is for all of Disney’s subsidiaries — Pixar, Marvel, LucasFilm, and other casual media giants — to be under one streaming umbrella alongside new original films and series. However, it’s believed that Disney could use Hulu to house more mature, adult-oriented programming while keeping Disney+ on the family-friendly side of things.
As usual, Disney has a lot on its plate right now: a live-action Aladdin remake, a Honey, I Shrunk the Kids sequel, the live-action Star Wars series The Mandalorian, the highly anticipated Toy Story 4, and a handful of other films. And yet it looks like the company’s mass output isn’t even nearing its peak given how many outlets Disney has absorbed by now. Who knew a black-and-white grinning mouse would control the fate of the media industry nearly 100 years later?