AT&T saw a tidy profit on Hulu, and in only a few years. Three years ago, Time Warner bought a minority stake in the streaming service for $600 million. Yesterday, AT&T sold that minority position (which is actually 9.5%) for $1.43 billion. That puts the total value of Hulu at $15 billion.
As for why AT&T wanted to sell, note that Time Warner was acquired by AT&T in June 2018, and is now know as WarnerMedia. It's launching its own direct-to-consumer service in the near future. Speaking today at a conference, a WarnerMedia vice president said the company is planning to launch the as-yet-unnamed service toward the end of the current fiscal year.
While the sale generated headlines, it was telegraphed long ago. AT&T had let it be known that it would sell its minority position in Hulu and use the funds to reduce debt from the Time Warner acquisition.
While WarnerMedia is no longer an owner, the two companies seem to be on good terms. "WarnerMedia will remain a valued partner to Hulu for years to come as we offer customers the best of TV, live, and on demand, all in one place," noted Hulu CEO Randy Freer in a statement. What's unknown is how long WarnerMedia will continue to license content to Hulu after it's own service is up and running.
The latest tally on Hulu ownership is as follows: Disney owns 60% (following its acquisition of 21st Century Fox), Comcast/NBCUniversal owns 30% (and isn't looking to sell), and the remainder will be allocated between Disney and Comcast. Variety suggests that will leave Disney with two-thirds and Comcast/NBCU with one-third.
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