Earlier this year when Disney acquired the rights to the majority of the 21st Century Fox media empire, they inadvertently became the majority stakeholder in Hulu. Then last month, according to Variety, AT&T sold its remaining 9.5% share of Hulu equally to the two remaining shareholders, Disney and NBCUniversal. Now Disney holds the two-thirds majority and may be the sole owner of Hulu by 2024 depending on NBCU’s next moves.
This article would be remiss without a brief history of Hulu. As reported by Bloomberg, NBCU and Fox initially founded Hulu as a way for their audience to be able to catch up on tv they had missed the night before the very next day. It blossomed into a streaming service that isn’t quite as financially successful as Netflix, but still boasts critical hits such as The Handmaid’s Tale. But with Disney taking majority ownership of Hulu, what becomes of everyone’s favorite NBCU shows?
There’s really no need to worry about it until 2022, that’s when NBCU has the right to either cancel its licensing agreement with Disney or request a higher fee. However, that’s not to say you wouldn’t be able to find those shows anywhere online. NBCU has plans to launch its own individual streaming network, in the vein of CBS All Access. This new streaming service is set to premiere as soon as next year with, “new originals and a gigantic library of old favorites,” says NBCU’s Linda Yaccarino. One exception to the relicensing deal will be shows NBCU made in collaboration with Hulu such as The Act or Difficult People.
Disney also has big plans for Hulu, seeing it as the home base for its more adult content. With the acquisition of Hulu, Disney outlines a multi-pronged approach to its streaming services, with the promise that perhaps one day it will be bundled. The idea is to put the family-friendly content like Marvel, Pixar, and Star Wars on Disney+ and some of the more mature programs from networks like FX and ABC on Hulu. NatGeo programming is set to air on both services. ESPN may be getting its own streaming service, but it may also find its home on Hulu as well.
Another benefit to Disney taking on Hulu is the push to the international market. Analysts predict that by the mid-2020s the global market will account for nearly two-thirds of Hulu’s consumers.
Disney+ is set to launch on November 12, 2019.