Disney is close to owning a majority stake in Hulu, and the company is now said to be looking to expand that by acquiring AT & T’s 10 percent stake in the streaming service.
Disney is in active talks with AT&T to buy its stake in Hulu, according to Variety. The sale would reportedly round AT&T about $ 1 billion and give Disney up to 70 percent ownership in Hulu. Disney already owns 30 percent of Hulu, and is in the process of acquiring 21st Century Fox, which owns another 30 percent.
AT&T executives have discussed a sale in the past, and at a conference last November they announced that the company was interested in selling its minority stake. WarnerMedia, now owned by AT&T, is preparing to launch its own independent streaming service.
AT&T has talked about selling its stake.
It’s a strong move for both companies: AT&T could use the estimated $ 960 million to pay off its excess debt (roughly $ 183 billion), and Disney is approaching full control of a property in which the company has an invested interest. AT&T executives said in October 2018, shareholders said the company would reduce at least $ 20 billion in debt in 2019 alone. Selling its minority stake in Hulu is a quick way to start that process.
AT&T is focused on WarnerMedia’s upcoming streaming service, but Disney has two services in mind: Hulu and Disney +. Disney + will launch later this year and will have exclusive Disney movies and TV shows, but it will launch nationally early on and will still have to cater to its family brand. Gaining a majority stake in Hulu can help the company take over the international streaming service and cater to a more adult audience. It’s something that CEO Bob Iger has talked about in previous calls with investors.
“After the deal is closed and after we have a 60 percent stake, we will meet with the Hulu management team and the board and discuss what the opportunities are in terms of global growth and more investment in content.” said Iger in November. .
Comcast, the other company with a 30 percent stake in Hulu, is unlikely to sell its share of the company anytime soon. Steve Burke, CEO of NBC Universal, which is owned by Comcast, recently told investors that the company is not interested in selling its 30 percent stake in the streaming service in the short term.