When Hulu launched in 2007, it was a godsend to early cord-cutters like myself. A partnership between ABC, NBC and Fox, its initial purpose was to let viewers see new episodes of shows on those networks within a week of their original airdate. It wasn't perfect, but it was valuable for people who didn't want to be tied to the broadcast schedule.
Of course it's exploded now, becoming an Emmy-winning juggernaut in its own right. It also offers live TV options for those who still need their sports fix. And its library is pretty vast, with classic TV, a ton of anime and a strong selection of indie movies.
Since Disney acquired 20th Century Fox back in 2019, it's owned two-thirds of the service, with Comcast owning the remaining third. Now, Disney has announced it's coming for the whole pie. They'll pay at least $8.6 billion for that last slice. There's some complicated valuation math and legal mumbo-jumbo to be sorted out in the months to come, but the deal is expected to be finalized early in 2024. For Comcast, they'll gain cash at a time while their own streamer (Peacock) is hemorrhaging money. For Disney, this acquisition gives them full control of a buzzy brand with live TV revenue.
It's an interesting time for Disney. Subscribers to Disney+ have shrunk, they're sitting on a ton of debt, and Marvel Studios seems to be in disarray. Will this help them rebound? It remains to be seen if they'll let the service continue to take chances on bold, creative shows like Reservation Dogs and The Bear (both under the FX on Hulu banner). CEO Bob Iger has signaled the services will be combined at some point. Earlier this year he was rightfully pilloried for his tone-deaf comments about striking WGA members. He's also been ruthless in pulling shows and movies from the service as a cost-cutting measure. Will Hulu's programs be next?