Disney and Comcast move up Hulu sale talks with valuation likely ‘way more’ than US$27.5bn”

Brian Roberts

Hulu’s future could be decided sooner than had been previously thought, after Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said talks with Disney are due to begin 30 September.

The sale of Hulu has been a constant source of discussion over the past year in the US, with Disney owning 66% of The Handmaid’s Tale streamer and NBCUniversal parent Comcast holding the other 33%.

A put-call deal struck in 2019 will come into effect in January 2024, through which Disney can force Comcast to sell its 33% of Hulu – or Comcast can force Disney to buy its stake – at a total equity value of $27.5bn.

But Roberts has now said that formal talks will start well ahead of that date, adding that he is “excited to get this resolved” following “cordial” and “constructive” discussions held over its future earlier this year.

The Comcast chief also talked up the valuation of Hulu, having admitted in May he would be “more likely than not” to sell his company’s 33% stake to the Mouse House.

He told the Goldman Sachs’ Communacopia and Technology conference that the “minimum $27.5bn that people have bandied about… was a hypothetical that we picked five years ago because Disney has control of the company. The company is way more valuable today than it was then.”

Both Comcast and Disney will price up the asset, with a third party brought in if the valuations are too far apart. Roberts said he considered Hulu, which is also home to shows such as Only Murders In The Building and imports such as Normal People, to be second only to Netflix on the streaming landscape.

The Comcast chief added that if the business is sold as is, “there would be a line of bidders around the block to buy all the content and all the bundling of Hulu,” adding that such a sale of a streamer has never been seen before.

Disney CEO Bob Iger announced plans earlier this year to place Disney+ and Hulu content on to one streaming app, calling it a “logical progression of our DTC offering”.

And as sale talks have hotted up, Hulu’s offering has been shifting, with the cancellation of fan favourite The Great and NBCU pulling some shows for its own Peacock service.

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