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Comcast and Disney extend deadline to decide future ownership of Hulu

Rafael Henrique | Images SOPA | LightRocket | Getty Images

The timeline for deciding Hulu’s ownership fate has been brought forward, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said Wednesday.

Comcast and disney are expected to begin these discussions on September 30, months ahead of the original January 2024 deadline. The discussions will include an evaluation process.

Under the original 2019 deal, Comcast can force Disney to buy, or Disney can require Comcast to sell, the remaining 33% of its stake in January 2024, for a guaranteed minimum total value of $27.5 billion. of dollars.

“We’re excited to fix this,” Roberts said Wednesday at Goldman Sachs’ Communacopia and Technology conference. “And the $27.5 billion minimum that people are talking about is an assumption that we made five years ago because Disney controls the company. The company is much more valuable today than it is. wasn’t at the time.”

Roberts called Hulu a formidable streaming company, second only to industry giant Netflix, which he noted has a market capitalization of $200 billion.

The deal between Disney and Comcast essentially set up the first-ever sale of a streaming service of this magnitude, Roberts said Wednesday. The two companies will each have their own appraiser, and if their valuations are very far apart, a third will probably have to appeal.

When evaluating Hulu, there’s more to consider than the streaming app itself, Roberts said. A valuation would include platform content, much of which is provided by Disney. The parties will also assess that Hulu is sold in a bundle with other Disney, Disney+ and ESPN+ services, thereby reducing the risk of churn or consumers dropping their subscriptions.

He also noted that the synergies could be worth “a few billion dollars” to a buyer of Hulu.

“Just that – the synergy and churn could be worth $30 billion,” Roberts said.

“I think if you sold all of this as is, there would be a line of bidders around the neighborhood buying all the content, all the Hulu bundles. We’ve never seen that activity,” Roberts said.

A Disney representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Discussions between the two companies regarding Hulu’s valuation have continued in recent years, CNBC previously reported.

Roberts and Disney CEO Bob Iger have been battling questions about the future of Hulu for some time now.

In May, Roberts told an investor conference that Comcast would likely sell its 33% stake in Hulu to Disney in early 2024. He suggested Hulu’s final price would likely be higher than that initial valuation.

As the deadline approached, Comcast’s NBCUniversal removed content – including series such as “Saturday Night Live” that appeared the day after they aired on traditional TV – from Hulu and put it on its own platform. streaming, Peacock.

While Disney+ is the House of Mice’s flagship streaming service, Hulu is its adult content platform known for series such as “Only Murders in the Building.”

While Iger told CNBC earlier this year that “everything is on the table” regarding Hulu, he changed his mind soon after, announcing in May that Hulu content would be added to Disney+. The content crossover is part of Disney’s effort to deliver a “one-of-a-kind experience” in the United States, Iger had said.

The decision to add Hulu content to Disney+ comes as Disney focuses on its ad-supported Disney+ option to attract more subscribers and ad revenue. Iger called it a “logical progression” for its streaming options that provide more opportunities for advertisers.

The single-app platform is expected to roll out by the end of this year.

Disclosure: Comcast owns NBCUniversal, the parent company of CNBC.