Why Disney and Comcast Still Can’t Reach an Agreement on Hulu

The fate of Hulu is still hanging in the balance following statements made by Disney CEO Bob Iger this week. Speaking at the Morgan Stanley Tech, Media and Telecom conference on Thursday, Iger said Disney is still debating whether to buy out Comcast’s 33 percent stake in Hulu, citing the current economic downturn and the company’s own problems. company with Disney Plus.

“What we’re doing now, because we own two-thirds of Hulu and we have an agreement with Comcast that could lead to us owning 100 percent, is we’re studying the company really, really carefully,” Iger said. . In an interview with CNBC last month, Iger similarly refuted assumptions that Disney would buy the remaining stake in Hulu, saying “that’s not necessarily the case” and that “everything is on the table now.”

Comcast has a firm deal to sell its 33 percent share of Hulu to Disney in January 2024

In 2019, Comcast and Disney announced an agreement that would eventually give Disney full control of the Hulu streaming service. But that deal isn’t necessarily a foregone conclusion — instead, it just allows Disney or Comcast to force the sale of Comcast’s remaining stake in Hulu to Disney starting in January 2024. Hulu’s actual valuation will be independently assessed closer to the sale deadline, but the deal gives a guaranteed minimum valuation of $27.5 billion – making Comcast’s stock worth at least $9 billion. (Disclosure: Comcast’s NBCU division is a minority investor in Vox Media, parent company of CoinTech.)

In light of the economic downturn, Disney is hesitant to commit to the purchase

While he said Hulu is a “solid platform” and “very attractive” to advertisers, Iger’s caution is not unfounded. “It’s already proven valuable to them, and advertising has proven valuable to us,” said Iger. “But the environment is very, very tricky right now, and before we make big decisions about our level of investment, our commitment to that business, we want to understand where it could go.”

Comcast president Mike Cavanagh responded to the hesitation expressed by Iger at the same Morgan Stanley media conference in February, claiming that the company is open to other offers for its Hulu stake, albeit at the risk of voiding its current deal with Disney. “Remember that in 2019 they and we made a very clean and good agreement for a put call that will take place in early 2024,” Cavanagh said, reported by Deadline. “We are very happy with that. But if there is something else, we have to take that into account.”

As it stands, Comcast can still force Disney to buy its 33 percent stake in Hulu next year under the terms of the put-call agreement. Disney may similarly force Comcast to sell, but since Iger says he’s “targeting $5.5 billion in cost savings across the business,” it’s unlikely he’ll have enough money behind the banks at Disney World in the coming months. find to pursue such a move. .

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