Last month, reports teased a potential future in which Disney’s unrelenting path towards total media consolidation extended to the Hulu universe, and today, that dream has been realized.
As Variety first reported, Disney now has “full operational control” over the streaming service effective immediately after Comcast agreed to sell its Hulu stake for, at minimum, $5.8 billion. While the deal reportedly states that NBCUniversal will license its content to Hulu through late 2024, it also gives the media conglomerate permission to make what was once exclusively licensed content for the streaming service available nonexclusively for a fee starting next year, and in 2022, it can cancel “most” of these licensing agreements.
And it’s not unlikely that Comcast might pull some of its content, or at least make it non-exclusive to Hulu, in the near future, given the company is launching a dedicated NBCU streaming service next year which NBCU chairman of advertising and client partnerships Linda Yaccarino said will include “new originals and a gigantic library of old favorites,” Variety reported.
“We are now able to completely integrate Hulu into our direct-to-consumer business and leverage the full power of The Walt Disney Company’s brands and creative engines to make the service even more compelling and a greater value for consumers,” Disney chairman/CEO Bob Iger said in a statement.
This marks yet another drop in the bucket of Disney’s breathless sweep of TV and movie ownership, which now includes, but is not limited to: ABC, Twentieth Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox Television, FX Networks, National Geographic Partners, Touchstone Pictures, Marvel, Lucasfilm, Pixar, and now, Hulu. And while Disney is consolidating its power, we have NBC throwing another streaming service into the already saturated field of options.
Disney is also launching its own streaming service, Disney+, later this year, which will include a number of the company’s franchises and new media assets. It’s unclear how this venture will influence the future of the Hulu library with Disney’s now full ownership over what might be considered a competing service in the near future.
Disney did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.
“You can expect that if that were to occur there would probably be some ongoing relationship when it comes to programming,” Iger reportedly said earlier this month, referring to the fate of Hulu content in the event Comcast sold its stakes to the company, “I’m not going to get more specific than that.”
As the nearly century-old media company continues to guzzle up beloved franchises and even lesser-known brands, and now, a leading streaming service, it’ll certainly be interesting to see how its competitors can stay relevant in its growing shadow. Or if they too will inevitably find themselves calling the House of Mouse overlords mom and dad.