The Walt Disney Company announced Wednesday that it would purchase the 33% stake in Hulu held by Comcast for $8.6 billion, cementing the entertainment giant’s control of the streaming service.
Disney has owned a 60% stake in Hulu since it acquired 21st Century Fox, and in 2019 was given full authority over the service, with Comcast (through their subsidiary NBC Universal) stepping back to become a silent partner. When Disney+ launched the same year, the company also offered a streaming bundle which included the new service alongside Hulu and ESPN+.
Since 2020, Comcast via NBCU has been shifting its focus to its own streaming platform, Peacock, moving its shows from Hulu to the new service. However, Hulu has continued to grow through original shows and films such as “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Reservation Dogs,” and currently stands at 48 million subscribers.
“The acquisition of Comcast’s stake in Hulu at fair market value will further Disney’s streaming objectives,” the company said in the announcement.
Disney CEO Bob Iger previously spoke noncommittally about Hulu to the press.
“Everything is on the table right now, so I am not going to speculate whether we are a buyer or a seller of it,” Iger said to CNBC in February when asked about the streaming service.
Under a previous agreement between Disney and Comcast, the final sale is still pending independent assessment of the fair market value of Comcast’s shares – but with $8.6 billion as the minimum Disney will have to pay.
Hulu was originally founded in 2007 by a partnership of several media companies, including AOL, NBCU and Myspace. Disney first joined as a shareholder in 2009, gradually growing its stake in the service through its acquisition of 21st Century Fox in 2019, and purchase of part of Time Warner’s shares later the same year, bringing it to a 67% percent share of Hulu before this week’s sale announcement.