Walt Disney Co. said on Tuesday it had reached an agreement to take “full operational control” of the streaming television service Hulu, effective immediately, under a deal with Comcast, which holds a 33 percent stake.
The deal gives Comcast, a media and cable giant, an option to sell its stake to Disney at fair market value within five years, with Hulu’s equity to be valued at no less than $27.5 billion. The agreement enables Disney to step up its efforts in streaming television against Netflix, the market leader, while keeping content from Comcast unit NBCUniversal through 2024.
Hulu, which is known for its popular Emmy-winning The Handmaid’s Tale and recently announced it had 28 million viewers, will be one of three streaming options offered by Disney, which is set to launch its family-oriented Disney+ service this year and already offers sports platform ESPN+.
Disney doubled its stake in Hulu to 60 percent with a deal to acquire key assets of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox. The other stakeholder, AT&T division WarnerMedia, agreed earlier this year to cede its 10 percent stake in the platform. Like Netflix, Hulu is adding new original shows including the Marvel comics-based Ghost Rider and Hellstrom as live-action series, bringing in viewers moving away from “linear” television to on-demand services.
Hulu’s U.S. user base trails that of Netflix, which has some 60 million U.S. subscribers, but it has grown faster than its larger rival so far in 2019. Unlike Netflix, it offers a variety of plans that include ad-supported subscriptions.