Disney CEO Bob Chapek wants to own all of Hulu, says chances of early deal are slim

on Sep19
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Disney CEO: The kingpin is going to be our streaming business

Disney Chief Executive Officer Bob Chapek said he’d love to own Comcast’s 33% stake in Hulu “tomorrow” but acknowledged the chances of an early deal are “less and less” as 2024 approaches.

“I would like nothing more than to come up with that solution for an early agreement,” Chapek said in an exclusive interview with CNBC’s David Faber on Wednesday. “But that takes two parties to come up with something that is mutually agreeable.”

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Comcast has an existing mutual agreement with Disney to sell its minority Hulu stake as early as January 2024. Activist investor Dan Loeb is pushing Disney to accelerate a deal so it can fully integrate Hulu with Disney+, creating a “hard bundle” that seamlessly allows users to view content from both services within one application.

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said Wednesday he would also like to own Hulu if Disney decided to put the streaming service up for sale.

“Hulu is a phenomenal business. … It has wonderful content and I believe if it was for sale, put up for sale, Comcast would be interested,” Roberts said at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference Wednesday.

Roberts added Comcast would be up for discussing a sale of its stake before the 2024 deadline, but it’s on Disney to start the conversation. “I think it’s got tremendous value, and, you know, I’m sure our shareholders share that belief,” Roberts said.

“There’s never been a pure play, fabulous streaming service put on the market. So I don’t know that the public markets are the way to judge the value.”

But, as CNBC reported earlier this month, Comcast executives expect Disney to stick to its plan to buy out Hulu.

The question will then turn to price. The best way to value Hulu is to figure out what it would sell for in a theoretical auction, Roberts said Wednesday at the conference.

Chapek told Faber this year’s dip in the public valuation of Netflix should factor in to the eventual sale price. In the 2019 agreement Disney and Comcast signed that guaranteed a sale of the 33% stake by 2024, the companies agreed on a floor price for Hulu of $27.5 billion.

“There’s a floor price too, right?” Chapek said. “Which, you know, wasn’t even relevant 18 months ago, when there’s still frothiness in the streaming business, but now that things have kind of calmed down a lot, that floor value looks a lot more [relevant].”

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

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