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Disney Would ‘Love’ to Have Full Ownership of Hulu Before 2024

That would require "reasonable terms" from Comcast, which owns 33 percent of the streaming service, said Disney chief Bob Chapek.

PHOTO EMBARGOED FOR USE UNTIL 9 AM PT ON WEDNESDAY 11/17/21. Dopesick -- “The People vs. Purdue Pharma” - Episode 108 -- Rick and Randy’s criminal investigation now threatens Richard Sackler’s empire, activists take action against Purdue, and Finnix tries to heal his beloved community that’s been ravaged by addiction. Dr. Samuel Finnix (Michael Keaton), and Elizabeth Ann (Alayna Hester), shown. (Photo by: Gene Page/Hulu)

Dr. Samuel Finnix (Michael Keaton), and Elizabeth Ann (Alayna Hester) in Hulu’s “Dopesick.”

HULU

Disney chief Bob Chapek would “love” for his company to have full ownership of Hulu before January 2024 — the date that The Walt Disney Company can first buy out Comcast’s one-third share in the business. But there’s one issue.

“That obviously takes some level of propensity for [Comcast] to have reasonable terms for us to get there,” he added Wednesday during the Goldman Sachs’ Communcacopia 2022. “2024 is not that far away.”

(For good measure, Chapek then repeated “2024 is not that far away;” perhaps that has become a bit of a company mantra when it comes to Hulu.)

Currently, Disney owns two-thirds of Hulu to Comcast’s one-third. Disney added 33 percent to its preexisting share after buying most of Fox’s entertainment assets in 2019 for $71.3 billion. At the time, Comcast and Disney struck a deal: Disney took immediate operational control of Hulu and agreed that as early as 2024, Comcast could require Disney to buy it out at fair market value. Disney guaranteed a minimum total equity value of $27.5 billion. Today, they can’t seem to agree on the “fair market value” for Hulu.

While Hulu is a key (and profitable) piece of the Disney bundle, which also includes Disney+ and ESPN+, the service cannot technically be folded into Disney+ so long as Comcast’s got a piece.

Hulu is a nice streaming service, but it isn’t exactly core to either Disney or Comcast. Disney+ is the main focus of Chapek’s company; NBCUniversal’s Peacock is the primary streaming service for Comcast. When Disney does have full ownership, assuming it happens, it will face another dilemma: Does the adult-skewing Hulu brand fit within Disney+? Is there room for two major streaming services under Cinderella’s roof?

Disney had a very busy week answering similarly important questions. Its annual Disney+ Day took place last Thursday, which was followed by three days of D23. Executives used those platforms, in part, to reinforce the company’s commitment to ESPN. That reassurance was another Chapek message on Wednesday. Also this afternoon, Chapek said 80,000 fans attended D23, which was an in-person event for the first time since the Covid pandemic kicked in stateside.

Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian L. Roberts will be interviewed at Communacopia at 7:30 p.m. ET. IndieWire reached out to a spokesperson for Comcast on Chapek’s “reasonable terms” remark; they declined comment (but suggested we listen to Roberts!).

Paramount Global chief Bob Bakish was interviewed earlier in the day at Communacopia 2022; read about his appearance here.

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