By Helen Coster and Dawn Chmielewski
(Reuters) – Comcast Corp Chief Executive Brian Roberts used the unusually public forum of a Goldman Sachs Communacopia + Technology Conference on Wednesday to signal that the company will seek market value for its minority stake in Hulu.
Roberts was asked to respond to Walt Disney Co Chief Executive Bob Chapek’s comments to the Financial Times published on Monday in which he said he would like to accelerate the timetable for acquiring Comcast’s one-third stake in Hulu.
Chapek said he would love to settle the matter of Hulu sooner than January 2024 but he told the publication that Comcast has seemed reluctant. It’s a sentiment the executive repeated Wednesday, in remarks at the Goldman Sachs conference.
The deal, reached in 2019, established a minimum valuation of $27.5 billion for Hulu, in a transaction that would give Disney complete ownership of the service. Chapek noted that market sentiment has cooled significantly since the original agreement was struck and investors have grown more skeptical about streaming, suggesting a more modest payout.
In his response to Chapek’s remarks, Roberts touted the value of Hulu, suggesting that the streaming service, with its 46 million subscribers and established brand, would command a premium. He said the agreement with Disney anticipates that Hulu’s valuation would reflect the price it could command if it were sold on the market.
“Hulu’s a phenomenal business,” Roberts said, adding that it would attract multiple bidders if it were up for sale in its entirety.
Comcast launched its Peacock streaming service two years ago, but growth has stalled at 13 million paid subscribers. Disney edged past Netflix Inc in the third quarter, with 221.1 million total streaming subscribers – including Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ – and added 14.4 million Disney+ customers during that period.
(Reporting by Dawn Chmielewski in Los Angeles, Helen Coster in New York. Editing by Sam Holmes)