And then there were two. Hulu, which only a month ago was owned by four big media companies — Disney, 21st Century Fox, NBCUniversal and AT&T/Warner Media — now will be co-owned by Disney and NBCU. AT&T and Hulu have struck a deal for AT&T to sell its minority stake in Hulu back to the video streaming joint venture.
The transaction valued Hulu at $15 billion, with AT&T’s 9.5% interest worth $1.43 billion.
Following Disney’s recent $71.3 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox assets, including its stake in Hulu, Disney became a majority stakeholder in the joint venture with about 60%, followed by NBCU (30%) and WarnerMedia. The two remaining owners now will have to allocate WarnerMedia’s 9.5% share. The conventional split would be according to Disney and NBCU’s current ownership (2:1), but that all will be negotiated between the two sides in the coming weeks.
Hulu has become a key part of Disney’s portfolio and was featured during the company’s big direct-to-consumer presentationwill last week. Today’s transaction no doubt fuel further speculation that Disney eventually could become Hulu’s sole owner.
“We thank AT&T for their support and investment over the past two years and look forward to collaboration in the future. WarnerMedia will remain a valued partner to Hulu for years to come as we offer customers the best of TV, live and on demand, all in one place,” said Hulu CEO Randy Freer.
The transaction did not require any governmental or other third-party approvals and was simultaneously signed and closed.
AT&T will use proceeds from this transaction, along with additional planned sales of non-core assets, to reduce its debt following its $85-billion acquisition of Time Warner last summer.
AT&T SVP and CFO John Stephens last month said that growing WarnerMedia and reducing debt are the company’s key priorities. The telco closed its Time Warner deal $180 billion in debt, had shaved off $9 billion by the end of 2018 and had said that it would use another $12 billion in free cash flow to continue paying it down.
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