A Disney spokesperson has revealed to Deadline that they have experienced a 60% higher than anticipated jump in Hulu + Live TV sales.
Hulu + Live TV Subscriber Increase Amid Spectrum Dispute
The Hulu + Live TV jump comes as Charter Communications and Disney remain at a carriage impasse. Last Thursday, Charter’s Spectrum service stopped providing 8 ABC channels as well as 18 of Disney’s cable network channels. Since then, a Florida customer has sued Charter over the blackouts.
Spectrum pulled the plug on college football and then blamed Mickey Mouse.
Though sales for Internet players have continued to increase, most traditional cable and satellite television providers are losing customers. Charter has even made the unorthodox move to refer its customers to rival providers in the hopes of maintaining customers for Internet service after they drop their live TV service. Despite this, Disney’s own advertising has increased Hulu + Live TV sales even further than expected.
Paramount Global CEO Bob Bakish and Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav have both recently commented on the situation, expressing no surprise over the conflict given the current “balancing act” required as the traditional television landscape transforms. Zaslav described the situation as a “moment” for the industry:
I don’t know that much in particular about this dispute, but it feels like this is a moment. It’s not clear if this is a moment that gets resolved quickly — and we are back to having an industry that is in secular decline…or whether this is a more meaningful moment.
Disney and Comcast Negotiate Hulu Sale
As one of the top internet-subscription bundles, Hulu + Live TV’s bump in subscribers comes amid the potential sale of Comcast’s one-third stake in Hulu to Disney. Comcast CEO Brian Roberts has stated the timeline for Hulu’s ownership negotiations will be moved up, according to a report from CNBC.
Currently, Disney owns a two-thirds majority stake in the streaming service, with Comcast owning the other third. Comcast and Disney are now scheduled to begin talks for the future of Hulu on September 30; the initial deadline was previously January 2024. These talks will include an appraisal process.
Under the original 2019 agreement between Disney and Comcast, Disney could require Comcast to sell, or Comcast could force Disney to buy their remaining 33 percent stake in Hulu in January 2024, at a guaranteed minimum total equity value of $27.5 billion — though the final price will likely be higher than the initial estimate. Roberts has expressed an eagerness to sort out a solution:
We are excited to get this resolved. And the minimum $27.5 billion that people have bandied about, that was a hypothetical that we picked five years ago because Disney has control of the company. The company is way more valuable today than it was then.
Both Disney and Comcast will each have their own appraiser for the streaming service as part of the negotiation process, and if their valuations are vastly different, a third appraiser could be brought in.
Value for Hulu will be determined by examining the streaming service’s content — much of which is supplied by Disney — as well as the fact that the service is sold in a bundle alongside Disney+ and ESPN+, which lowers the likelihood of “churn,” or when consumers choose to unsubscribe from streaming services.
I think, if you were selling all this, as is, there would be a line of bidders around the block to buy all the content, all the bundling of Hulu. That business, we’ve never seen.
Roberts previously said the sale is “likely,” and Iger revealed plans to combine Disney+ and Hulu into a new one-app experience back in May of this year. Disney+ is the flagship streaming service for Disney, offering legacy and original programming across its studios, while Hulu is home to more adult-oriented content, such as “American Horror Story” and “Only Murders in the Building.”
The combined Disney+ and Hulu single-app experience is still expected to launch this year.
Have you recently signed up for Hulu + Live TV, or been impacted as a Spectrum customer? Let us know in the comments.