Disney’s CEO Weighed In On Hulu’s Future, And We Could See A Big Streaming Shake-Up

 Bob Iger as a guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live
Bob Iger as a guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live

The landscape of streaming has been continually in flux as numerous new platforms get introduced and then go through a series of growing pains as they attempt to court subscribers and figure out how to be successful in this competitive market. But one of the earliest successful streaming platforms, Hulu, is set to go through a major shake-up next year, and Disney CEO Bob Iger is keeping his cards close to his vest about exactly what he plans to do.

Originally a joint venture between Disney, News Corp, Comcast, and a private equity firm, Hulu is currently owned ⅔ by Disney with Comcast holding the rest. In 2024 the door opens for one side or the other to buy out Hulu, and while it’s long been expected that Disney would take complete control, Disney's former and current CEO Bob Iger isn’t ready to make that commitment quite yet.

Speaking at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference, Iger was asked about the importance and the future of streaming, and he responded that while there are very attractive business reasons to potentially want to takeover Hulu, he also admitted that, because the business is going through a lot of changes, Disney will want to better understand what the future holds before making a commitment. Iger said…

We have very strong original programming, actually highly awarded original programming, some delivered by FX, which is a great not only producer, but brand, and we also have a good library, so it’s a solid platform. And it’s also a very attractive platform for advertisers. It’s already proven to be valuable for them and advertising is proven to be valuable for us. But the environment is very, very tricky right now and before we make any big decisions about our level of investment, our commitment to that business, we want to understand where it could go.

Disney’s purchase of 20th Century Fox gave them the share of Hulu owned by News Corp, and functionally put them in charge of two streaming services. Up until now, Disney has largely run Hulu and Disney+ as complementary streaming services, with more family-friendly content going to Disney+ and more mature content ending up on Hulu.

According to THR, Disney has hired Goldman Sachs to help advise them on how to move forward on the Hulu question. Buying out Comcast is an option, but so is Disney selling its stake to Comcast. Disney could also sell its stake to somebody else entirely, Comcast, for its part, has expressed interest in owning Hulu outright. It’s a potentially profitable platform due to not only subscription income but the fact that most subscribers to Hulu have the option that includes ads, making it an enticing option for advertisers.

Of course, with things changing so fast in the streaming space, what looks financially viable right now might look less so in a few months. How things are looking in January 2024 will probably be the determining factor on where things go. But whatever ends up happening with Hulu next year, it will likely cause waves that impact the rest of the industry, never mind to Hulu subscribers. And what those might be could be anybody’s guess.