The Mouse House continues its worldwide domination of the entertainment space with a new deal announced Tuesday.
After The Walt Disney Company acquired 21st Century Fox assets, it is now welcoming Hulu under its far-reaching umbrella of properties in taking over full operational control.
Disney was already the majority owner of Hulu with its Fox acquisition, but the company revealed a new deal with Comcast that allows Comcast to require Disney to buy NBCUniversal’s 33 percent interest in Hulu as early as January 2024. As of now, “Disney will assume full operational control of Hulu, effective immediately,” according to a press release.
Disney guaranteed a future sale price of all of Hulu valued at no less than $27.5 billion, which would make NBCU’s 33 percent worth a minimum of $9 billion.
So, that’s all fine and dandy, but what does this mean for the average binger? Many specifics are still unknown, but we’re already seeing certain pieces fall into place.
It began with Disney’s development of Disney+ as its own in-house streaming platform to compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon. In that move, the Defenders series of Marvel shows (Jessica Jones, Daredevil, Luke Cage, and the like) were canceled at Netflix, while the streaming destination for the Marvel Cinematic Universe library moves to Disney+ beginning with Captain Marvel.
At the same time, Marvel projects produced by Disney’s TV divisions were still getting the green light at Hulu before the new announcement: Ghost Rider with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. actor Gabriel Luna, Helstrom, Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K., Marvel’s Hit-Monkey, Marvel’s Tigra & Dazzler Show, and Marvel’s Howard The Duck.
With Disney now wielding full operational control over Hulu, it’s unclear how the Hulu and Disney+ symbiosis will play out. But, during Disney’s Investor Day briefing of Disney+ and its post-Fox plans, Kevin Mayer, chairman of the direct-to-consumer division, said the company will “likely” bundle together Hulu, ESPN+, and Disney+ for “a discounted price.”
Variety reports that FX Networks CEO John Landgraf believes FX series will exist comfortably on Hulu. “The fact that Hulu has about 40 percent of subscribers that are ad free — that’s really exciting to me,” he said. “We’re proud of making this kind of programming available in 90 million homes with ads.”
According to Tuesday’s Disney-Hulu press release, Comcast also agreed to extend the Hulu license of NBCUniversal programming through 2024, but NBCU can terminate most of its content licensing agreements with Hulu in three years. In one year, NBCU can host certain content exclusively licensed to Hulu on its own OTT platform in return for reducing the license fee payable by Hulu.
Comcast can remain an owner of Hulu for five years, during which time its expected to develop its own streaming platform.
“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,” Disney CEO Bob Iger said 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.”
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