A story has started bubbling up on the movie and entertainment interwebz. First reported in The Wrap and then carried by Dark Horizons, a Citigroup analyst has done some thinking around messaging in the Q1 2023 results from Disney. Jason Bazinet has come to the conclusion that there might be a deal to be done around Hulu that involves some Marvel characters that remain outside the Marvel Studios tent.
Howard The Duck, Namor The Submariner, and the Hulk are owned by Disney via Marvel as IP, but Marvel Studios cannot make standalone movies based on these IPs as Comcast, owner of Universal, has those distribution rights.
Bazinet is talking about a partial swap deal. Disney trades its 67% stake in Hulu to Comcast in exchange for all the distribution rights to all the Marvel characters that Comcast currently owns.
The analyst has a ‘Buy’ label on Disney shares, and is watching them closely. He says:
“Following fiscal 1Q23 results, we believe the company is less interested in a mass market DTC offering. This raises the possibility that Disney may sell its Hulu stake.”
There are already contract terms in place regarding Hulu ownership. Comcast has a 33% stake, and Disney has terms in place to buy it out if they wish. Comcast can also force Disney to buy it, should they desire to shed their stake. This potential deal, though, goes the other way. Disney ships Hulu to Comcast:
“While Disney owns all Marvel IP, Universal has distribution rights to Hulk and Namor. As such, if Disney makes a Hulk or Namor film, Comcast can distribute the film on Peacock. If Hulu is sold, Disney may use this as an opportunity to secure these distribution rights.”
44% of U.S. internet households subscribe to Hulu. However, outside of the US Hulu is not really a thing. That content is available globally via the expanded Disney+ available outside of the US. This makes Disney+ a much more compelling proposition overseas and helps it retain subscribers.
The kicker is the value of Hulu in the US. The analyst says Hulu is worth something between $19.8 billion and $27.5 billion. How deep are Comcast’s pockets?
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