Disney CEO Bob Chapek Confirms Plan to Buy Hulu Stake From Comcast, Won't Sell ESPN

Disney CEO Bob Chapek has confirmed plans for the studio to purchase Comcast's stake in the Hulu streaming service, while also doubling-down on Disney's refusal to sell ESPN. Chapek spoke to Disney investors at the Goldman Sachs+ Technology Conference this week, where he made declarative statements about what Disney's next business goals look like, when it comes to keeping a broad (and profitable) portfolio, and bolstering streaming. 

In regards to Hulu, Chapek told investors that "I do believe that we have to have full ownership of Hulu to integrate with Disney+, and we would love to get to the end point earlier. If we can get there, I'd be more than happy to try and facilitate that."

Hulu has been a murky situation to unravel. Disney acquired a 60% majority stake in Hulu back in 2019, as part of the Disney and 20th Century Fox merger. Fox had developed a thick TV portfolio for streaming through Hulu in the 2010s, and Disney was able to use Hulu as branch where more mature-rated Fox movies could be showcased, as well as an number of the bingeable syndicated TV programs from across the Fox, ABC, and FX Networks – with the latter re-organizing itself into the "FX on Hulu" streaming brand. 

At the same time, there has been a lot of confusion among consumers when it comes to how Disney's three bundled streaming brands (Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+) coordinate with one another – or not. The complete separation of Hulu and Disney+ has been especially perplexing for a lot of people, who believe that all Disney-owned content should be readily and easily available to users across all platforms. It seems that Disney has heard those frustrations as well, because Bob Chapek clearly sees Disney+/Hulu integration as a major next step in the company's process. 


Comcast became a silent partner in Hulu after the Disney-Fox merger, with its 33% stake in the streaming service. The deal left a door open for Disney to negotiate purchase of Comcast's Hulu stake at fair market value, starting in 2024. However, in 2021 Comcast accused Disney of purposely constraining Hulu's growth to control that market price – specifically foregoing Hulu's international reach in favor of launching the Disney Star streaming service in foreign markets. Comcast has since started pulling its content (NBCUniversal TV, Bravo, Universal movies, etc.) off of Hulu and using it to build up Comcast's Peacock streaming service, which is lagging behind the pack in the Streaming Wars. 

As for ESPN? Chapek made Disney's view concise and simple:  "Disney is the place where ESPN can be maximized rather than that asset sitting anywhere else. Despite the market demand to sell or spin off ESPN… we like where it sits."