The Walt Disney Company now owns not one, but two TV streaming services.
After partnering with various media companies on Hulu for years, Disney has slowly been buying up its partners’ stake in the streaming service. Its recent acquisition of 21st Century Fox gave it 60% ownership, but Disney just revealed that it struck a deal with Comcast that will give it complete ownership of Hulu.
The deal with Comcast gives Disney full operational control of Hulu immediately. Comcast agreed to sell its stake within five years for at least $5.8 billion. NBCUniversal (owned by Comcast) will still license content to Hulu through late 2024, but next year it will have the option to pull content licensed exclusively to Hulu.
By 2022, NBCUniversal can cancel most of its content-licensing agreements with Hulu, which will help as it plans to launch its own free streaming service next year.
Disney takes the wheel at Hulu
“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,” said Disney CEO Bob Iger in a statement.
Disney revealed its Disney+ streaming service last month. It will be interesting to see how the company makes both Hulu and Disney+ compelling streaming services in their own right. Launching Hulu internationally could be in the cards and help bring in even more money for the entertainment behemoth.
Despite its popularity, Hulu has been losing money over the last few years. In 2018 it lost $1.5 billion. The service recorded $920 million in losses the year before. Disney projects that Hulu’s paid subscriber base will hit 60 million by 2024. That’s more than double the 26.8 million subscribers it announced it had last month.
Hulu will face some strong competition to hit those numbers. Apple TV+ is set to launch later this year. AT&T is working on its own service. So are Facebook, DC Universe, Time Warner, Amazon and others. The biggest question is whether consumers will have the interest and funds to subscribe to all of them. With a market this crowded, there’s certainly going to be some big failures.