May 31, 2020

Disney to Buy Comcast’s Hulu Stake and Take Full Control of Streaming Service

Stephen B. Burke, the chief executive of NBCUniversal, said the deal between Comcast and Disney was “a perfect outcome for us.”

“The extension of the content-licensing agreement will generate significant cash flow for us,” he added, “while giving us maximum flexibility to program and distribute to our own direct-to-consumer platform.”

Hulu started as a free service in 2008 and was entirely supported by advertising. It later began charging subscription fees while offering a live television service similar to the bundles of pay TV channels offered by cable providers.

For much of Hulu’s existence, its complicated ownership arrangement, with a committee-led management team, occasionally hampered decision-making and the service’s overall mission. Was it a repository of network shows for next-day viewing, or did it want to compete more directly with the likes of Netflix? The answer was not always clear.

Hulu’s identity came into sharper focus when it started to offer its own programming, most notably “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the first show native to streaming to win an Emmy for best drama series.

Netflix, with 148 million subscribers around the world, remains the leading streaming service. It has 60 million subscribers in the United States, more than double the number who pay for Hulu, which primarily serves an American audience.

But Hulu is growing faster than Netflix in the United States, and it has ambitions to expand internationally. Making a global push would require new rights agreements with content owners, including Comcast. In 2018, the cable giant acquired the British satellite TV service Sky, which has a growing streaming presence in Europe.

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