NBCUniversal doesn't want to be in the Hulu business with Disney, but that doesn't mean they don't want to be in it at all. Speaking September 14 at the Goldman Sachs + Technology Conference, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts suggested that, rather than selling their minority stake to Disney in 2024, he would be open to flipping the script and buying the streaming platform outright. This would allow NBCU to merge Hulu -- which has around 50 million total users -- with the company's Peacock service. That isn't to say he's going to go out and make an offer tomorrow -- but Roberts says the quality of the business, along with the brand name that Hulu has built over the years -- is an attractive combination.
In 2024, Comcast has the right (but not the obligation) to sell its remaining 33% of Hulu to Disney for at least $27.5 billion. Media Play News reports that Disney CEO Bob Chapek would like to move up the sale window, and buy at a lower price. That's not something that sounds likely given Roberts's new comments.
"I believe if Hulu was put up for sale, Comcast would be interested [in buying it]," Roberts said. "So would a lot of other tech and media companies. You would have a robust auction."
He added, "Regardless, 100% value of Hulu is what we are entitled to, but if it were up for sale, we certainly, and I think others would want to get into that opportunity. I think our position [in Hulu] is very enviable for us and our shareholders. As a company, Hulu has done a spectacular job."
Given that NBCU has already started pulling some original content off Hulu and redirecting it to Peacock, it isn't clear how serious any attempt to buy Hulu would be -- but certainly, if it were to go up for sale, Hulu would be in a better position than anyone except Disney to buy it. After all, having a significant ownership stake means they could, in theory, offer Disney a higher per-share price than other bidders, and still come out paying less in the end.
That "100% value" remark is likely the key part of the comments, though. It suggests that any deal to get NBCU to part with their share, would have to come under the terms of the deal they already have in place with Disney. The company isn't Warner Bros. Discovery, after all. They aren't so cash-poor that they would be willing to have a fire sale to raise quick cash.0comments