Comcast “more likely than not” to sell Hulu stake to Disney, says CEO Roberts

The Handmaid’s Tale

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts has said that the NBCUniversal parent will “more likely than not” sell its one-third stake in streaming service Hulu to Disney.

His comments come a week after Disney CEO Bob Iger said the Mouse House had shared “cordial” and “constructive” conversations with Comcast about an acquisition.

Speaking to investors at this week’s MoffettNathanson TMT conference, Roberts acknowledged: “The fact is that Bob Iger, on his earnings call last week, said that they’re now interested in general entertainment, which is no surprise.

“I think Disney recognized as anybody else would recognize that Hulu is really valuable,” Roberts continued. “I think it’s more likely than not that we go through with what we said all along,” explaning that he expects the put-call agreement to go into effect in early next year.

Comcast has a 33% stake in The Handmaid’s Tale streamer Hulu, while Disney took the remainder following its acquisition of 20th Century Fox. Under a deal struck in 2019, Comcast can force Disney to buy its stake in the streamer in early 2024, or Disney can force Comcast to sell the stake.

The put-call agreement will require an independent valuation, but guarantees a minimum of $27.5bn, which means that if Disney were to buy Comcast’s stake to take full ownership, then it would set them back at least $9bn.

Roberts also addressed the sudden exit of NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell last month, following allegations of sexual harassment.

Noting that “we’re going through some interesting situations at NBCUniversal on the personnel front”, Roberts praised CFO and president Mike Cavanagh, who was tasked with leading the company in the interim.

“You go to a meeting with Mike, you leave the meeting, feeling better than you went into the meeting. That’s not always the case,” said Roberts. “Mike is taking the reins, it has calmed everybody.”

Other recent big changes at NBCUniversal have seen ad boss Linda Yaccarino depart to head up social media service Twitter, though Roberts did not touch upon her exit at the conference.

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