Comcast will likely sell Hulu stake to Disney at the beginning of 2024, CEO Roberts says

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Comcast will likely sell its 33% stake in Hulu to Disney at the beginning of 2024, Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts said Tuesday.

Comcast and Disney struck a deal in 2019 that allowed Disney the option to buy out Comcast’s minority stake in 2024. That deal set a floor valuation for Hulu at $27.5 billion.

“It’s more likely than not we will go through with what we’ve said all along,” Roberts said at the SVB MoffettNathanson investor conference. “The vast majority case is that we’ll put and they’ll call in the beginning of next year.”

Roberts also suggested the final price for Hulu will likely be higher than the $27.5 billion valuation initially set in 2019.

Hulu is Disney’s adult-focused streaming service, which it bundles with ESPN+ and Disney+ for as low as $12.99 per month. Comcast owns a minority stake in Hulu but has no operational control over the business. Hulu ended Disney’s fiscal second quarter with 48.2 million subscribers.

Comcast and Disney have already held talks about Hulu this year, Iger said last week. Iger told CNBC in Feburary that “everything is on the table” with regard to Hulu.

“I can say we’ve had some conversations with them already,” Iger said. “They’ve been cordial and they’re aimed at being constructive, but I can’t tell you and I can’t really say where they end up — only to say that there seems to be real value in having general entertainment combined with Disney+. And if, ultimately, Hulu is that solution, that’s we’re — we’re bullish about that.”

Roberts’ position has pushed Iger back toward buying Comcast’s stake, said the people.

“Everything was on the table,” said Iger during Disney’s earnings conference call last week. “But I’ve now had another three months to really study this carefully and figure out what is the best path for us to grow this business. And it’s clear that a combination of the content that is on Disney+ with general entertainment is a very positive, is a very strong combination from a subscriber perspective, from a subscriber acquisition, subscriber retention perspective, and also from an advertiser perspective.”

Comcast executives had assumed Disney would buy out its 33% stake in Hulu when Bob Chapek was Disney’s CEO last year. But when Iger returned, he emphasized cost cutting and initially questioned the value of general entertainment content, which he said was “undifferentiated.”

Iger last week backtracked, saying “that was a little harsh,” while also acknowledging talks have occurred with Comcast.

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal, which includes CNBC.

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