Disney may have to write a big check to buy Comcast’s one-third stake in Hulu, CEO Bob Roberts hinted Tuesday.
“I think we have a very valuable position,” Roberts said during a webcast session at Moffett Nathanson’s inaugural Technology, Media and Telecom Conference. The NBCUniversal-owner and pay-TV, media and tech giant must decide the future of its one-third stake in Hulu, potentially exercising a put option that would force Disney, which owns the remaining two-thirds, to take its minority stake Calls.
Roberts referenced Disney’s analyst call last week following the release of the studio’s latest financial results, and CEO Bob Iger addressing the importance of general entertainment content (as seen on Hulu). “I think it’s more likely than not that we’ll make the call early next year,” the Comcast CEO said, referring to an earlier agreement that would allow the studio to exercise a right to sell its Hulu stake at a negotiated price .
Iger told investors that recent talks with Comcast have been constructive. “I can’t tell you, and I can’t really tell where they end up, just to say that there seems to be real value in having general entertainment combined with Disney+.” And ultimately, if Hulu is that solution, then we’re — we’re bullish on that,” the Disney CEO told analysts on the call, as the studio also has plans to combine Hulu content with Disney+ content in one app in the U.S. market.
On Tuesday, Roberts predicted that Comcast shareholders would benefit from a possible sale of Hulu’s stake. “I’m pretty sure we’re selling our Hulu stake for more than we own. In fact, that’s contractually certain,” Roberts added.
While appearing at the investor conference, he also spoke about the recent shocking fall of Jeff Shell, CEO of NBCUniversal. Comcast President Mike Cavanagh has stepped in for Shell on an interim basis, with no indication of how long he will be in the role.
“We’re seeing some interesting situations on the staff front at NBCUniversal. Mike, taking the reins, immediately put everyone at ease. They’re excited to be working with him,” said Roberts as he reaffirmed his support for Cavanagh after he took more direct control of NBC Univeral following Shell’s exit.
NBCUniversal, along with rival Hollywood studios, must offset the decline in viewership and advertising revenue from its traditional television networks with new investments in streaming as Wall Street watches for signs of profitability. Roberts spoke about streaming, including the studio’s Peacock platform, as an extension of NBCUniversal’s overall media business rather than a separate endeavor.
“For us, streaming was a way to leverage technology shifts and bring this (NBCU) content to an audience on any device, anywhere. We make money from streaming,” he said.