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Disney takes full control of Hulu

Hulu’s critically acclaimed drama The Handmaid’s Tale

The Walt Disney Company has taken full operational control of US streamer Hulu, with an agreement in place for it to buy Comcast’s 33% stake in the business for at least US$5.8bn within the next five years.

Disney, which is due to launch its own streaming service, Disney+, in the US in November, owns 67% of the streamer having been a founding partner in the business more than a decade ago.

Hulu has grown rapidly over recent years, bolstered by extensive spending on original content including The Handmaid’s Tale, and speculation has been rife about the future of Comcast’s 33% stake in the business.

The two companies have now announced a deal for Disney to assume full operational control of Hulu, effective immediately. Comcast will initially retain its interest but the agreement states that in 2024 can trigger a Disney buyout of the stake for a minimum of US$5.8bn. The price of this deal will be independently assessed at the time.

Comcast-owned NBCUniversal (NBCU) will continue to license its content to Hulu until 2024 in a deal worth US$500m a year, but will be able to pull back shows previously licensed exclusively for its own streaming service which is due to launch early next year.

Disney, Fox and NBCU launched Hulu as a joint venture in the US more than a decade ago, with Time Warner later taking a 9.5% stake. Disney was able to up its holding in the business after buying out assets belonging to 21st Century Fox last year.

US media giant AT&T subsequently sold the Time Warner stake to Disney and Comcast for US$1.43bn last month, after picking it up as part of its own takeover of Time Warner. Its newly formed WarnerMedia arm is also set to launch its own SVoD offering in the coming months.

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