Disney Takes Full Control of Hulu

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Disney's streaming plans got even bigger and bolder today with the announcement that Comcast will sell its stake in Hulu to Disney within five years, making Disney the sole owner. But Disney takes over full operational control of the streaming service today, according to Variety.

Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal, will keep its 33% interest in Hulu until 2024. At that time, Comcast can require Disney to buy its interest in the company, or Disney can require Comcast to sell for fair market value, Variety reports. Comcast is guaranteed at least $5.8 billion in the deal; Disney said it expects the company to be worth $27.5 billion by 2024.

The news comes as Disney is preparing its own direct-to-consumer streaming service, Disney+, for launch in November. "Hulu represents the best of television with its incredible array of award-winning original content, rich library of popular series and movies, and live TV offerings," Disney CEO Bob Iger said in a statement. "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." 

In the meantime, NBCUniversal content will continue to appear on Hulu, but NBCU can gradually reduce the amount of content it licenses until 2022, at which time it has the right to cancel all of its licensing agreements with Hulu. NBCU will launch its own streaming service next year, and at its upfront yesterday, the company confirmed that the service would be ad-supported and free to subscribers. At the upfront, NBCU chair of advertising and client partnerships said "the shows that viewers stream the most are coming home," suggesting that NBCU might start pulling content off of other streaming services sooner rather than later.

Hulu launched as a joint venture between NBC and Fox in 2007. Disney assumed Fox's share when it completed its acquisition of 21stCentury Century Fox earlier this year, and AT&T sold back its 9.5% minority share in Hulu just last month.

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