What’s going on these days between Disney and Hulu is sort of baffling. Back in February, C.E.O. Bob Iger sounded like he had soured on a deal to acquire Comcast’s one-third stake in the platform, valued at some $9 billion. “We are intent on reducing our debt,” Iger told CNBC. “I’m not going to speculate if we’re a buyer or a seller of it. But I’m concerned about undifferentiated general entertainment.” Less than a month later, at a Morgan Stanley conference, he sounded even less confident in Hulu’s value. It’s “very tricky” to pin down, he said, describing streaming as a “nascent business.”
But on last week’s earnings call, Iger sounded like he’d had a change of heart. “Cordial” and “constructive” talks with Comcast C.E.O. Brian Roberts had begun, he said. Three months of study had led him to the conclusion that “a combination of the content that’s on Disney+ with general entertainment is a very strong combination, from a subscriber perspective, from a customer acquisition and retention perspective, and also from an advertiser’s perspective.”
Regardless of whether Iger had been pouring cold water on an acquisition in order to lower the deal price, or if he was genuinely concerned about the long-term value of folding Hulu into Disney+, he now appears to be persuaded by David Zaslav’s thesis behind combining HBO Max and Discovery+ into one, ahem, undifferentiated general entertainment mega-platform. On the earnings call, Iger said that Hulu content would soon be available in a “one-app experience” through Disney+, presumably the first step toward a more holistic integration of Disney/Fox entertainment assets with Hulu originals. Ousted C.E.O. Bob Chapek had alluded to this when he was leading the company.