With the fate of Hulu’s ownership soon to be determined, Disney CEO Bob Iger says it is “very tricky” to pin down its long-term value given that streaming overall is still in a “nascent” stage.
“We’re really studying the business very, very carefully, all those competitive dynamics, with an understanding that we have a good platform in Hulu,” the exec said in an appearance at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference. “We have very strong original programming … and we also have a good library.” The service, he added, is “very attractive for advertisers.”
Despite those pluses, Iger said, “the environment is very, very tricky right now. Before we make any big decisions about our level of investment and our commitment to that business, we want to understand where it could go.”
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In early 2024, a “put/call” will take effect under the 2019 deal that gave Disney full operational control of Hulu. Under the terms of the deal, Disney can compel Comcast to sell it its 33% stake, which would cost at least $9 billion. Some Wall Street analysts believe Comcast could maneuver to take control of Hulu, in light of Iger’s comments about the limits of general entertainment in streaming. Iger, who returned to the CEO chair last November, told CNBC last month that “all options are on the table.”
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Iger observed that the “whole streaming business — other than Netflix, which is relatively mature — is a nascent business for most of us. And we’re also at an interesting point in the world, from a media perspective, where a lot of people are still getting linear programming and while I have said publicly that I don’t think the future of linear is very bright and eventually everything will migrate toward streaming, we’re not quite there yet.”
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Hulu, which operates only in the U.S., had 48 million subscribers as of the end of 2022 — 4.5 million on Hulu + Live TV and the rest on the on-demand version of the service.
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