The CEO of NBCUniversal’s parent Comcast said it’s “more likely than not” that the company will end up selling a third of its Hulu to Disney, after his counterpart at Mouse last week clearly indicated that would be Disney’s preferred outcome. There’s been some surprising over the past year as the deadline approaches, but both Hulu parents seem to be on or close to the same page now.
“The fact is that Bob Iger, on his earnings call last week, said they’re now back interested in general entertainment, which isn’t surprising,” Brian Roberts told investors at the MoffettNathanson TMT Conference. Earlier this year, Iger was more skeptical of “undifferentiated” general entertainment streaming, versus Disney+’s targeted brands.
Comcast could put up its stake in Disney, or Disney could name it early next year. The Disney chief said the two sides had “friendly” and “constructive” talks about Hulu.
“I think we’ll likely go through what we’ve said all along. They’ll put in, we’ll call them early next year,” Roberts said today.
“I think Disney is recognized because everyone else would recognize that Hulu is really valuable,” said Roberts. The minimum contractual valuation is about $9 billion per share. He hopes it’s just north.
The question is what the “willing buyer at a strong auction” would pay. “It’s a kind of hypothetical question,” said Roberts, since there was no asset like this for sale — a platform with more than 50 million local streaming subscribers, “All the content is from Disney and Fox. So what is any buyer worth, including Disney? We include Comcast. We include other tech companies, or whatever. And that’s the business… of giving us a third of that value. I think we have a very valuable niche.”
Roberts also spoke about recent executive turmoil, following the abrupt exit in April of NBC Universal CEO Jeff Shell, and how he sees Mike Kavanagh’s key role in the company. The CFO, who was promoted to president last year to work closely with Roberts on strategy — and the first at Comcast to hold that title — oversees Shell’s direct reports for now.
“You go into a meeting with Mike, you leave the meeting, and you feel better than you went to. That’s not always the case,” said Roberts. “It reminds me a little bit of my dad, he had this calming effect. And when we’ve seen situations — we’re going through some very interesting situations at NBC Universal on the personnel front. Mike’s taking over, everyone’s calmed down.” (Speaking in character — Kavanagh is younger than the CEO, whose father, the late Ralph Roberts, founded Comcast in 1963.)
He said the exec continues to work on Comcast’s vision and practices across a wide range of assets. “You know, something I believe very strongly in is decentralization. But during restructuring… there is an opportunity for the right kind of leaders to step in and say, ‘How can we leverage all these companies working together, even more than they have in the past, and continue to make Great customer and visitor experiences? Great products, great technology, and he helps us make it happen.
The other big departure, NBC Universal advertising chief Linda Iaccarino’s transition to Elon Musk’s Twitter, didn’t come. She was scheduled to present at the company’s presentation yesterday.
Big news of that – Peacock will become the first to exclusively broadcast an NFL playoff game on January 13th.
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