Disney Will Soon Own Hulu and Here’s What That Means

    By: Nick Gambino

This week, Disney finally started the process of purchasing the remaining 33% of Hulu from Comcast, making the house that Mickey built the sole owner of the popular streaming service.

Hulu launched in 2007 as a partnership service, not unlike the CW, which offered “next-day TV” from NBCUniversal and other partners’ recent programming. It was free with ads until they launched a subscription plan in 2010 called Hulu Plus. This subscription allowed them to compete directly with Netflix as they offered full seasons of shows and immediate access to new episodes, something Netflix didn’t do.

At various points, Hulu partners included 21st Century Fox, Disney, Comcast and WarnerMedia (later becoming Warner Bros. Discovery). As things shook out, especially with the acquisition of 21st Century Fox and WarnerMedia selling 10%, Disney became the majority stakeholder with 67% to Comcast’s 33%. The minority stakeholder agreed to sell to Disney by 2024 and in 2019 handed over control of the platform.

This week Disney filed paperwork that stated their intent to buy out Comcast for at least $8.61 billion or fair market value. There are a lot of intricacies to a deal this big, so it’s expected to close some time in 2024.

Bob Iger has revealed plans to create a unified app for Hulu and Disney+ so that users can access movies and shows from both in a single location. This is something they’ve seemed wary of in the past, anxious about retaining the Disney brand and not muddying it up with more adult fare. It seems like they’ve come around on the idea.

“We are basically putting it in beta so that we can prepare parents, largely, to basically implement parental controls, because you’ll be able to access Hulu programming on the same app,” Iger said in an earnings call.

There have been some rumors going around that they are planning on shuttering Disney+, but as far as we can tell these are unfounded. It may have just been a misinterpretation of the merging of the two apps. Sure, Disney+ as well as Hulu may not exist exactly as they are now, but the services will continue to offer their respective programming.

It’s also not clear whether you can just have one service and not the other. It’s expected to go into beta in December 2023, so we’ll find out then.