Is there a bidding war going on over Hulu? Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts called Hulu a “phenomenal company” — and said that if Disney was willing to sell it, the cable and media company would be interested in buying it out.
“Hulu is a phenomenal company. His scale is fantastic. It has great content,” Roberts said Wednesday at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia + Technology Conference 2022 in San Francisco. “If it were up for sale, Comcast would be interested” in buying 100% of Hulu, and “others I would think too.”
Disney currently owns 66% of Hulu and Comcast has the remaining 33% stake. On July 2, 2022, Disney noted that Comcast’s stake in Hulu was worth $8.6 billion, implying a valuation of $25.8 billion. In an auction-like sale of Hulu in its entirety, Roberts suggested, Hulu could yield more than that.
Under the agreement that gave Disney control of Hulu, in January 2024, Comcast has the right to require Disney to buy its Hulu ownership stake (and vice versa, Disney has the right to force Comcast to sell it).
But it’s Disney’s decision whether it wants to sell its position in Hulu — and earlier Wednesday at the Communacopia conference, Disney chief Bob Chapek indicated that his company wants to own 100% of Hulu for itself. “We’d like to get to that endpoint sooner,” Chapek said, referring to the January 2024 trigger, but indicated Disney has not reached an agreement on the terms for such a deal in its talks with Comcast.
Hulu, available only in the US, gained 600,000 paid subscribers in the June quarter for a total of 46.2 million. That includes 4.0 million live TV customers, the same as the previous quarter.
Picking up Hulu – and possibly combining it with Peacock – would certainly be more powerful for Comcast.
In the second quarter, Peacock’s paid customer base remained steady at 13 million and Peacock’s total monthly active accounts declined 1 million to 27 million. In the first quarter, Peacock had high profile events, including the Super Bowl and the Beijing Winter Olympics. Peacock’s second quarter revenues were $916 million (compared to $122 million a year earlier), while streamer operating expenses and expenses were $912 million (compared to $485 million in the second quarter of 2021).
Roberts said he was “very happy with how Peacock has fared over the past two years,” and said the streamer has increased the amount of content from an initial 20,000 to 70,000 hours.
For the second quarter, Comcast’s total revenue increased 5.1% to $30.0 billion, compared to $28.5 billion in the same period a year earlier. NBCUniversal boosted revenue growth as revenue rose 18.7% to $9.45 billion.
Comcast’s cable business lost 521,000 total video customers in the second quarter to 17.1 million at the end of June, while its total broadband customer base of 32.2 million was flat compared to the first quarter of 2022.
When asked about the broadband slowdown, Roberts said Comcast had gained 3 million customers during the COVID pandemic, so there was some “pull forward” for subscribers. “We’re going to find ways to grow the business,” he said, including by competing more aggressively with telco’s fixed wireless broadband and expanding Comcast’s own wireless business. Roberts also said Comcast sees a lot of room for growth in business services, with an annual run rate of more than $9 billion.