Hulu Stake to Disney ‘More Likely Than Not’, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts Says

Comcast is willing to sell its 33% stake in Hulu to Disney, but the question at this point is the right price for that, according to Comcast CEO Brian Roberts.

“I think it’s more likely” that Comcast will end up selling full control of Hulu to Disney, Roberts said, speaking Tuesday at the MoffettNathanson Technology, Media and Communications Conference in New York. “I’m pretty sure if and when we sell our stake in Hulu, it will be for more than what we have in it.”

Comcast currently owns a 33% stake in Hulu. Starting in January 2024, Disney can ask Comcast to sell its stake in Hulu (and, conversely, Comcast can force the sale). Under the terms of Hulu’s Disney-Comcast deal, Hulu’s “guaranteed land value” is $27.5 billion, which means Comcast’s stake is worth at least $9.2 billion.

Roberts said “I think we have a very valuable position” in terms of ownership on Hulu and said the task now is to get to a Hulu rating that takes into account multiple factors. What does a willing buyer want in a robust auction? [for Hulu] Pay?” Roberts asked rhetorically. He noted that the Hulu-wide streaming service was never for sale. Part of the evaluation process for evaluating Hulu, Roberts said, is taking into account the fact that “you get all the content from Disney and Fox forever, so In theory, what is that worth?

Regarding Comcast’s Hulu stake deal with Disney, Roberts said, “I think ultimately that will be valuable to our shareholders.”

The Comcast CEO’s comments come after Disney chief Bob Iger announced last week that Disney+ and Hulu content will be combined into a single app before the end of 2023 for subscribers of the two streaming services. Iger said, on Disney’s earnings call last week, that the company has had “constructive” talks with Comcast about Hulu’s future but declined to speculate on how the Hulu negotiations might turn out. “How that ultimately unfolds is, in a sense, in the hands of Comcast and in the hands of … a conversation or a negotiation that we’ve had with them,” he told analysts.

On the May 10th call, Iger said it’s “not fully defined” what will happen with Hulu. But he said it’s clear that content on Disney+ combined with “general entertainment content” is a very strong proposition. “So what we’re going for is a single experience, with general entertainment content on Disney+,” he said. “If Hulu is, in the end, that solution…we’re bullish about that.”

In the first three months of 2023, Hulu gained 200,000 net new subscribers in the quarter to reach 48.2 million subscribers.

Roberts, at an investor conference in September, alleged that Comcast would be interested in buying Disney’s majority stake in Hulu “if it were for sale,” calling Hulu “an exceptional company.”

As for Comcast’s direct subscription — NBCUniversal’s Peacock — Roberts said at the MoffettNathanson Conference that Peacock is “well positioned” for growth and confirmed that 2023 will be the peak year of losses for the business (it’s expected to be $3 billion this year). Roberts called for NBCCU’s new deal with the NFL that gives Peacock the rights to the first NFL playoff game available exclusively on streaming. He also noted that in the second half of 2023, Comcast will begin charging Xfinity customers for Peacock, after it was previously included at no additional fee.

For $5 a month, Roberts said, “Peacock may be the best value product in America,” referring to the ad-supported version of the service. As of the end of the first quarter of 2023, Peacock had 22 million subscribers, up more than 60% year-over-year.

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