June 18, 2024
#Studios

Disney Acquires Comcast’s Stake in Hulu, Consolidating Ownership of the Platform

The Walt Disney Company is set to acquire an additional 33% stake in Hulu, currently owned by Comcast Corp.’s NBC Universal (NBCU), thereby becoming the sole owner of the streaming platform.

Why is Disney making this move? Since assuming the role of Disney’s CEO in November of the previous year, Bob Iger has shifted his focus more towards streaming than traditional broadcast television. There have been ongoing speculations that Disney is considering divesting its linear channels and transforming ESPN into a digital platform. During a May earnings call, Iger announced Disney’s plan to launch a “one-app experience” in the United States, where Hulu and Disney+ content would be available in the same place. Acquiring full ownership of Hulu is the most significant step Disney can take in that direction.

What will this acquisition cost Disney? According to a brief release issued by Disney on Wednesday, the company is expected to pay a minimum of $8.61 billion to acquire Comcast’s shares on December 1.

Where does the price estimation originate? The $8.61 billion figure represents a minimum valuation that was established when Disney and Comcast entered their co-ownership agreement in 2019. However, this figure is subject to potential adjustments before the completion of the current deal. The agreement necessitates an appraisal process, which Disney anticipates will conclude around 2024. The final price will be determined upon the conclusion of this process.

How does the appraisal process function? The valuation of Hulu is being conducted by financial institutions, with JPMorgan Chase (representing Disney) and Morgan Stanley (representing Comcast) leading the assessment. In the event that the valuations provided by these two banks differ by more than 10%, a third appraiser will be enlisted to provide an additional estimate. The ultimate valuation of Hulu will be established as the average of the two valuations that are closest in proximity.

What if the assessed value surpasses the initial estimate? According to Disney, if the appraisal results in a higher valuation, “Disney will compensate NBCU for the difference between the equity fair value and the guaranteed floor value [$8.61B], based on their respective ownership percentages.”

Has the value of Hulu increased since 2019? In 2019, Hulu was appraised at $27.5 billion. Comcast now believes that the platform’s value has significantly appreciated. Comcast CEO Brian Roberts stated in September of the current year that the 2019 valuation was “hypothetical” and suggested that the final price could be substantially higher. During the company’s recent earnings call, Roberts asserted that Hulu is “the second-largest AVOD/SVOD service after Netflix. The leading company [Netflix] currently has a market valuation of $200 billion.”

What are the official statements from the companies regarding Wednesday’s announcement? Disney’s release largely consists of legal terminology but does clarify that, “The acquisition of Comcast’s stake in Hulu at fair market value will further Disney’s streaming objectives.”

Comcast issued its own statement, which states: “We look forward to the appraisal process and the determination of Hulu’s fair market value, which we expect will reflect the extraordinary value of the business.”

Disney Acquires Comcast’s Stake in Hulu, Consolidating Ownership of the Platform

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