Disney has taken control of Hulu in a new deal Comcast announced this week.
The House of Mouse has been lining up its streaming chickens in recent months ready to lay the golden egg that is its own VOD service, Disney+. The subscription platform launches later this year, with content already lined up to capitalise on its many franchises, from Star Wars and Marvel’s MCU to High School Musical. A key part of the platform’s strength comes from Disney recent acquisition of Fox, which has added to its brand clout and IP library. That merger also brought with it access to subscription streaming service Hulu. While Disney had a notable share in Hulu previously, it’s now inked an agreement with Comcast to buy their stake for $5.8 billion.
The move will see Comcast’s NBCUniversal continue to license content to Hulu until 2024, but NBCU will have the right from next year to pull back content that was previously licensed exclusively to Hulu. From 2022, NBCUniversal will also have the right to cancel most of its licensing agreements if it wishes to – paving the way for NBCU’s launch of its own streaming service (albeit one that will be free and ad-supported).
“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,” Disney chairman/CEO Bob Iger said in a statement this week.
The agreement marks the final piece in Disney’s streaming master plan. Full control over Hulu means that it can roll out the service internationally if it wishes – previously, shows such as The Handmaid’s Tale have been licensed out to UK broadcasters, such as Channel 4. It also means that Disney has a place to park its more adult-friendly fare, giving a full roster of programming to accompany its more family-targeted Disney+ brand. Indeed, Marvel already has plans for Hulu series in the works, including Howard the Duck and Night Rider, while its High Fidelity TV series recently moved from Disney+ to Hulu. Disney has also said it would consider bundling the services together at a discount rate in the future.