Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts hinted the media giant will likely divest of its ⅓ interest in the Hulu streaming service in the next few years, adding that a sale could be a substantial cash opportunity for the company.
Speaking at the virtual Morgan Stanley Investor Conference Wednesday (March 3), Roberts said Comcast has an exit opportunity from the Hulu partnership in “a couple of years.”
“The opportunity to get a lot of cash from Hulu is coming our way,” Roberts said.
He added that exiting the partnership will allow Comcast to divert content that has been available to Hulu exclusively to its own streaming service Peacock.
“We control the flexibility and the timing when to put that on a non-exclusive basis and an exclusive basis in many cases over the many years ahead," Roberts added.
Comcast was one of the original partners in Hulu -- with Fox and Disney -- when the service was created in 2007. Disney bought Fox’s entertainment assets (including its Hulu stake) in 2019 for $71.3 billion, and now controls about 60% of the streaming service.
Comcast and Disney reached an agreement in 2019 that gave Disney full operational control of Hulu but allows Comcast to exit the partnership in 2024 after an independent fair market valuation with a minimum full equity value of $27.5 billion for the streamer. According to LightShed Partners principal and media analyst Rich Greenfield, Hulu could be worth as much as $45 billion, making Comcast’s interest worth $15 billion.
Some analysts had hoped that Comcast would pull the trigger on a Hulu exit early. In a research blog, Greenfield had hoped the media giant would sell its Hulu stake this year.
“The Hulu joint venture appears to have outlived its usefulness, with Comcast and Disney both increasingly focused on their own direct-to-consumer platforms,” Greenfield wrote. “Hulu appears to complicate both companies’ strategic plans — slowing Disney’s ability to unify its streaming services and preventing Comcast from having exclusive access to its current programming and library content.”
Comcast launched Peacock in July and so far has had about 33 million people sign up for the service. At the Morgan Stanley conference, Roberts said there is an opportunity to take some of the NBCU content that is now on Hulu and make it exclusive to Peacock.
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