The Disney takeover continues. After completing its acquisition of 20th Century Fox earlier this year, the Mouse House has now assumed full operational control of the streaming service Hulu, effective immediately. The news comes after Disney and Comcast struck a deal in which Comcast handed over the steering wheel while agreeing to sell its stake in Hulu to Disney for at least $5.8 billion within five years.
Previously, Disney owned a 30% stake in Hulu with 20th Century Fox owning another 30%, Comcast owning 30%, and AT&T owning 10%. But when Disney acquired Fox, they doubled their total share, and when it became clear that they wanted full ownership over the streaming service, AT&T sold its 10% stake back to Hulu, leaving Comcast as the final holdout. And now, as we see with this deal, Comcast is selling off its remaining stake.
So why does Disney want Hulu when they’re launching their own streaming service Disney+ later this year? Well, Disney+ is being billed as a family friendly streaming service in line with Disney’s theatrical output, but just as Disney would never greenlight and release a movie like Prometheus, they’re not exactly itching to put American Horror Story on Disney+. With ownership of Hulu, Disney now has a separate, more adult-oriented outlet for its library of films and television shows (which now includes 20th Century Fox films and shows), as well as new streaming series. Indeed, just recently the Disney+ adaptation of High Fidelity moved from Disney+ to Hulu, realizing the Zoe Kravitz-led series would be a better fit on Hulu, and FX chief John Landgraf said during today’s upfront presentation that he doesn’t think FX shows belong on Disney+ at all. And that’s not to mention all the R-rated Fox films that can be put on Hulu instead of Disney+.
As part of this new deal, Comcast’s NBCUniversal will continue to license content to Hulu through late 2024, but with NBCUniversal due to launch its own streaming service next year, there are some tricky stipulations. For one, as early as next year NBCUniversal has the right to pull programming previously licensed exclusively to Hulu and instead make it available to Hulu on a nonexclusive basis for a reduced license fee. But the real kicker comes in 2022, when NBCUniversal has the right to cancel most of its content-licensing agreements with Hulu, which means shows like Parks and Recreation could be departing to head to NBCUniversal’s own streaming service.
In a sign of things likely to come, NBCU chairman of advertising and client partnerships Linda Yaccarino said on Monday that “the shows that viewers steam the most are coming home” in relation to NBCUniversal’s upcoming streaming service, which means when the licensing deals for shows like Friends and The Office expire with Netflix, NBCUniversal will likely be pulling them and putting them exclusively on their own streaming service.
Only just begun, the streaming wars have…