Disney Might Trade Hulu to Comcast for Hulk, Citi Analyst Says
Jason Bazinet doesn't think a 'mass-market DTC offering' fits Disney's portfolio, and it might take Comcast's distribution rights to two Marvel characters, Hulk and Namor, as compensation
Not only does Citi analyst Jason Bazinet believe Disney will sell its stake in Hulu to Comcast, and not the other way around, he also speculates that Disney might use the negotiation to claim the distribution rights to two Marvel characters controlled by Comcast's NBCUniversal division, Hulk and Namor.
“Following [Disney's] fiscal 1Q23 results, we believe the company is less interested in a mass market DTC offering. This raises the possibility that Disney may sell its Hulu stake,” Bazinet wrote in a note to investors Thursday morning.
Also read: What's Going to Happen to Hulu, a Major SVOD with 48 Million Customers? Who Knows?
Selling its 67% stake in Hulu would provide a great opportunity for Disney to consolidate the ol' MCU.
“While Disney owns all Marvel IP, Universal has distribution rights to Hulk and Namor,” the analyst added. “As such, if Disney makes a Hulk or Namor film, Comcast can distribute the film on Peacock. If Hulu is sold, Disney may use this as an opportunity to secure these distribution rights.”
Also read: Buy? Sell? Analyst Suggests Disney, Comcast Go 50-50 On Hulu
Disney consolidated Fox and Warner's ownership in the Hulu joint venture in 2019. And as part of that negotiation process, Comcast -- relegating to a non-controlling shareholder with a 33% ownership stake -- gained the right, starting in 2024, to demand that Disney buy it out at a minimum Hulu valuation of $27.5 billion.
That would mean that Disney, which is trying to reduce the more than $4 billion in direct-to-consumer losses it experienced in 2022, would have to come up with at least $9 billion and change.
For his part, Bazinet places Hulu's valuation at between $19.8 billion and $27.5 billion.
Hulu added 800,000 paid users from October through December, ending 2022 with 48 million subscribers, nearly double what it had at the time Comcast forged its forced-sale agreement with Disney in 2019.
Meanwhile, Hulu revenue reached $10.7 billion last year -- again, more than double what was four years ago.
Newly re-installed Disney CEO Bob Iger, when asked what his company might do with Hulu during Disney's fiscal Q1 call in early February remarked, "Everything's on the table right now. I'm not going to say we're a buyer or a seller.”
And for his part, Iger's Comcast counterpart, chief executive Brian Roberts, said in September that Comcast would be interested in buying Hulu.
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Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!