Disney takes control of Hulu before own streaming launch

The Hulu 2013 Summer TCA Tour takes place at The Beverly Hilton Hotel

The Walt Disney Company and Comcast Corporation announced today that Disney will assume full operational control of Hulu, effective immediately, in return for Disney and Comcast entering into a "put/call" agreement regarding NBCUniversal's 33% ownership interest in Hulu. According to the agreement, Disney can demand Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal, sell the remaining stake to Disney for its fair market value in the future.

And Comcast can require Disney to buy its stake in early 2024. Until that point, NBCUniversal remains a part-owner in Hulu even though Disney will be steering the ship. That has given Comcast a big stake in how the streaming platform is operated, including how NBCUniversal shows like 30 Rock and Seinfeld are licensed.

And with Disney taking control of Hulu, that gives the entertainment giant more flexibility to offer things like discounted bundles of Hulu and Disney Plus, its forthcoming $7-a-month Netflix-like service. Many specifics are still unknown, but we're already seeing certain pieces fall into place.

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The Hulu deal also comes as Disney is embarking on an ambitious streaming initiative. Disney and Comcast have agreed to buy out AT&T's 9.5-percent interest in Hulu too; Disney will pay two-thirds of the cost of that, with Comcast covering the remainder. And that's not to mention all the R-rated Fox films that can be put on Hulu instead of Disney+.

In addition to that Marvel content, Hulu is development TV series based on Sweet Tooth, Motor Girl, Old City Blues, and Woke. NBCUniversal will have the option to offer some of the shows it now licenses exclusively to Hulu in one year's time.

At the same time, Marvel projects produced by Disney's TV divisions were still getting the green light at Hulu before the new announcement: Ghost Rider with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. actor Gabriel Luna, Helstrom, Marvel's M.O.D.O.K., Marvel's Hit-Monkey, Marvel's Tigra & Dazzler Show, and Marvel's Howard The Duck.

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