Hulu is now co-owned by Disney and Universal after buying out AT&T's stake in the service. With just over ten years of experience in the rapidly growing subscription based streaming market, Hulu was one of the few original names that attempted to compete with Netflix, back when Netflix was first beginning to flex its streaming capabilities.
Today, Hulu’s service, while successful in its own right, has numerous characteristics that prevent it from branching out and reaching a wider range of subscribers. The fact that the service isn’t available outside of the United States (with the sole exception of Japan), has arguably stifled Hulu’s growth at a time when every subscription based streaming platform around seems to be doing all they can to reel in subscribers and create interest. And as the streaming landscape continues to shift, adapt and grow, Hulu still seems to some as though it continues to struggle with some basic concepts that customers expect from a streaming service in 2019.
Now, however, it appears that Hulu is undergoing another substantial change in its ownership. According to Deadline, Hulu - which was once jointly owned by Disney, 21st Century Fox, NBC Universal and AT&T WarnerMedia – is now owned solely by Disney and Universal, after AT&T sold its stake in the venture back to the other two shareholders. AT&T’s 9.5% stake in the joint venture will now be divided between Disney and Universal, with the sale netting AT&T $1.43 billion.
What this now means for Disney is that given its recent acquisition of Fox, the Mouse House is Hulu’s majority stakeholder, claiming 60% of Hulu, with the additional 9.5% previously owned by AT&T WarnerMedia to be divided up among Disney and NBC Universal. Still dealing with last summer’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner, AT&T will use its profits from this most recent sale to lessen its debt. As things currently stand, the idea that Disney could eventually own all of Hulu is a very real one, with Disney already making moves to promote the service as a key feature in its rapidly growing entertainment empire. And with Disney only months away from launching its own highly anticipated streaming service, Disney+, the streaming market looks as though it’s set to undergo yet another big change.
Though Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has previously stated that he’s not concerned about competition in the coming years, the steady growth of Disney in such a short amount of time is absolutely worth paying attention to. That being said, however, Netflix has been spending their time wisely, and working hard to develop their own, often highly successful original programming. Disney may be setting themselves up for a greater stake in the streaming market, but while they put in the work to get things up and running, Netflix continues to move forward on their own empire, having already dealt with many of the growing pains that Disney is still likely to face.