Hulu might look very different a year from now. AT&T has sold its roughly 10 percent stake in Hulu back to the streaming service today for $1.43 billion dollars, making it that much more likely that Hulu will become a Disney-centric service in the future.
Just last year, Hulu was still divided evenly between Disney, Fox, and Comcast — each owning a 30 percent cut of the company — alongside AT&T’s roughly 10 percent stake. But Disney gained a controlling interest in Hulu when it bought Fox, and the AT&T sale means Disney now owns a staggering 66 percent of the service, with Comcast owning the remaining 33 percent.
This could mean big changes for Hulu down the line
But it’s not just about the money and the percent-ownership; Disney gaining even more control over Hulu could also mean a radical shift in what Hulu even is. Right now, the service offers streaming content from a huge range of providers, including Comcast-owned NBC and Universal, and AT&T-owned networks like TBS and TNT.
Now that AT&T no longer has skin in the game, it’s easy to imagine a future where the company pulls its shows entirely in favor of its own streaming efforts. (AT&T now has its own video empire after purchasing Time Warner, after all.) And if Comcast follows suit, it could leave Hulu as an exclusively Disney service that compliments the upcoming $7-a-month Disney+. Disney has even hinted as much, with the company highlighting in the past few days the different roles it intends for Hulu and Disney+, with Hulu offering more mature content, and even the potential for a joint bundle. (Perhaps AT&T saw the writing on the wall when Disney assumed control.)
While that’s good for Disney, it’s a decidedly less appealing future for consumers, who could see one of the last streaming services to offer cross-network content get fractured into even more monthly fees to watch all your shows.