Comcast, Disney spar over Hulu; Roberts keeps faith in broadband

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Comcast would be interested in acquiring Hulu if Disney decides to sell the streaming platform, according to Comcast CEO Brian Roberts. It’s an assertion which suggests Comcast is not about to make it easy for Disney to buy out the 33% stake in Hulu that Comcast currently owns.

“Hulu is fantastic, it has a wonderful platform, and I believe if it was for sale, put up for sale [by Disney], Comcast would be interested, but so would a lot of other tech and media companies,” Roberts said at the Goldman Sachs Communicopia + Technology Conference this week.

His comments were in response to earlier comments made by Disney CEO Bob Chapek at the very same conference. Chapek said that Disney would like to buy out Comcast’s 33% stake in Hulu earlier than 2024, the year specified by mutual agreement in which Disney could potentially acquire Comcast’s minority stake in Hulu. Chapek suggested Comcast is unlikely to be willing to negotiate such a sale for the time being, which delays any ability Disney would have to further integrate Hulu and Disney+ for bundling purposes.

Whether Roberts statements are a negotiating tactic or real interest remain to be seen. “I think Hulu’s got tremendous value, and I’m sure our shareholders share that belief,” he said. “Our position is a very enviable one.”

Aside from his comments about Hulu, Roberts suggested that Comcast’s global scale and immense service breadth, which has the company investing in and offering everything from traditional cable TV to broadband to mobile service to fixed wireless to video streaming to even theme parks, puts Comcast in a better position to weather broader economic challenges than any more narrowly focused pure-play business.

While the company’s broadband growth has stumbled, that breadth is a big reason why Roberts is not worried about the future, and why Comcast this week was able to announce that it is increasing its share re-purchasing program from $9 billion in shares bought back from stockholders to $20 billion.

Regarding the residential broadband downturn, Roberts noted, “During the pandemic we added 3 million customers, and so one of the things that happened is we pulled forward some of our demand during that time.”

He acknowledged that competitive pressure in the broadband market is growing, but that the company’s scale is what allows it to continue investing in broadband, specifically fiber and DOCSIS 4.0, even at a challenging time. He also said he believes that services like mobile and fixed wireless access offer a path to future subscriber growth, and that customers will continue to evolve how they use broadband in their homes, which will sustain and drive new value into broadband services.

“If you go back a few years, there was not a lot of Zoom activity like we see now, and if you go back a few more years there was not as much streaming… The question is ‘What do you think people will be using broadband for five or 10 years from now in their homes? That is what gives me great confidence in broadband.”

News Source: Fierce Video