The Walt Disney Company announced on Wednesday that it will purchase Comcast’s 33% stake in the streaming platform Hulu for $8.6 billion, giving Disney full ownership of the service.
The deal values Hulu at $27.5 billion overall and is expected to close by December 1, 2022. Disney stated that consolidating Hulu furthers its broader streaming ambitions as it battles rivals in the crowded streaming space.
Disney Looks to Boost Flagging Disney+ Subscribers
The Hulu acquisition comes as Disney attempts to boost subscriber numbers for its flagship Disney+ streaming platform. Last quarter, Disney+ lost over 10 million subscribers largely due to declines in the Indian market.
Disney+ ended Q2 2022 with 146 million global subscribers, down from 158 million in Q1. The company hopes taking full control of Hulu will help turn around sluggish Disney+ growth.
Currently, Disney offers discounted bundles that package Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ together. Fully owning Hulu allows Disney to more tightly integrate programming and marketing across its streaming ecosystem.
Streaming Landscape Remains Fiercely Competitive
While pioneering streaming service Netflix bounced back last quarter by adding nearly 11% more subscribers, Disney faces an uphill climb to regain its momentum.
Rival platforms, evolving consumer preferences, and a potential content slowdown due to an industry labor strike present ongoing challenges. Disney’s upcoming Q3 2022 earnings report will offer insights into its streaming health.
The company may look to promote its new ad-supported Disney+ tier, as ad models gain appeal across the streaming landscape. Netflix’s own ad tier has shown early positive traction.
Comcast Deal Caps Disney’s Phased Hulu Takeover
Disney reached an agreement with Comcast in 2019 that paved the way to acquire Comcast’s one-third Hulu ownership over several years.
The $8.6 billion deal to buy the remaining stake culminates that phased takeover process ahead of a 2024 deadline, when Disney would have been forced to make an offer.
Owning Hulu strengthens Disney’s position in the streaming wars through the rest of the decade and beyond. It now wields full control over Hulu’s content, brand strategy and user experience.
But Disney faces heavy competition from not just Netflix, but also Amazon, Apple, Warner Bros. Discovery and others vying for streaming primacy.
Full Hulu Ownership Lets Disney Tighten Integration
From a product standpoint, Disney can now align Hulu even more seamlessly with Disney+ and ESPN+ in terms of programming, pricing, and more.
The company can maneuver faster on content decisions and subscriber promotions when it has sole ownership of Hulu.
While the $27.5 billion price tag is steep, having unrivaled command of the mature Hulu service offers Disney strategic flexibility in the evolving video landscape.
As legacy media giants move aggressively into streaming, the battle for viewers and market share grows more intense each quarter. For Disney, the fight now fully encompasses Hulu too.