Disney's Iger pivots on Hulu stance, now says general entertainment 'very positive'
Yahoo Finance · 11 May 404 Views

Disney (DIS) CEO Bob Iger is changing his view on Hulu — just a few months after the executive said "everything was on the table" in regards to the streaming giant's future.

"I've now had another 3 months to really study this carefully and figure out what is the best path for us to grow this business. It's clear that a combination of the content that is on Disney+ with general entertainment is a very positive," Iger said on the company's quarterly earnings call on Thursday, adding he's now "bullish" on the combination of Disney+ with Hulu.

"[It's] a very strong combination from a subscriber perspective, from a subscriber acquisition [and] subscriber retention perspective and also from an advertisers' perspective," he said.

Iger's comments mark a stark turn from what he told CNBC in February: "I’ve talked about general entertainment being undifferentiated. I'm not going to speculate if we're a buyer or a seller of it."

"But I'm concerned about undifferentiated general entertainment. We're going to look at it very objectively," he said at the time.

Disney currently owns two-thirds of the streamer with Comcast’s Universal (CMCSA) controlling the rest.

Under the terms of the joint ownership agreement, Comcast could require Disney to buy out its stake in Hulu as early as January 2024 at a guaranteed minimum equity value of $27.5 billion (or about $9.2 billion for the 33% stake.) Iger said on the call "it's not really been fully determined what will happen" once that deadline arrives.

Hulu boasts just over 48 million subscribers and hosts top-rated shows including "Only Murders in the Building," "The Handmaids Tale," and "The Dropout." Hulu's subscriber growth was flat in Disney's latest quarter.

Iger, who stepped back into the CEO position in November, has remained hyper-focused on profitability as investors shift focus away from subscriber growth and put more emphasis on margins. The company's direct-to-consumer division, which includes Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+, shed a whopping $4 billion-plus in its fiscal 2022 ended Oct. 1, after it spent an estimated $33 billion on content last year.

Since that time, Iger has worked hard to establish new revenue streams like Disney's recently launched ad-supported tier, in addition to various price increases to help pare losses and lift metrics like average revenue per user, or ARPU.

Despite Disney+ missing subscriber expectations amid those price hikes, the company saw streaming losses narrow to $659 million in the second quarter— above consensus estimates of $850 million — from a loss of $887 million in the year-ago period.

The company previously reported a streaming loss of $1.1 billion in Q1 and a $1.5 billion loss in Q4.

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