Disney Gains Full Control of Hulu Following Deal With Comcast

Disney has slowly been acquiring a larger stake in Hulu, most recently thanks to its acquisition of certain assets owned by 20th Century Fox. According to Variety, today Disney has "full operational control" of Hulu thanks to a new deal with Comcast.

The deal's terms state that Comcast will retain its 33 percent ownership interest in Hulu through January 2024, after which time either side can demand that the sale of Comcast's Hulu stake go through.


Comcast's NBCUniversal division will continue to license content to Hulu through late 2024. However, the deal includes a few stipulations: as soon as 2020, NBCUniversal will have the right to pull programming that was previously exclusive to Hulu, and by 2022 NBCUniversal will be able to cancel most of its content-licensing agreements with Hulu.

Like most other companies, NBCUniversal has plans to launch its own streaming service within the next few years. The Comcast/Disney deal today includes an arrangement where NBCUniversal will be able to keep its shows on Hulu on a nonexclusive basis (with a reduced licensing fee), while also streaming them on its new service.

As it stands, Hulu today is a platform with content from a wide array of content providers, which upload episodes of TV shows as early as the day after they air on cable. In the past, Disney has said that it plans to keep Hulu as it is and focus its own properties on the Disney+ streaming service. According to CEO Bob Iger, Disney's full ownership of Hulu will create an "even more compelling" service.
“We are now able to completely integrate Hulu into our direct-to-consumer business and leverage the full power of The Walt Disney Company’s brands and creative engines to make the service even more compelling and a greater value for consumers,” Disney chairman/CEO Bob Iger said in a statement about the pact.
For its main streaming service, Disney has announced that Disney+ will launch this November for $6.99 per month. It will include exclusive original series like "The Mandalorian," and various TV shows based on Marvel and Pixar properties.


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Disney CEO Bob Iger Staying on Apple’s Board, Will ‘Continue to Monitor’ Situation

Disney CEO Bob Iger has sat down with CNBC's David Faber to discuss a wide range of topics, including the company's upcoming streaming service Disney+ and how that will impact his position on Apple's board of directors.


Despite the fact that Disney+ will compete with Apple's upcoming TV+ streaming service, Iger said the business of direct-to-consumer television or movies is "still very small" to Apple. At this point, Iger doesn't believe the situation is "problematic," but said it is one he will "continue to monitor."


Transcript via CNBC:
DAVID FABER: The Apple board. It's another thing I just was curious about. Can you stay on that board?

BOB IGER: Well, obviously, when you sit on the board of a publicly traded company, you have to be very mindful or your responsibilities, fiscal responsibilities to the shareholders of that company, and I have been. When the business of direct-to-consumer or television or movies is discussed on the Apple board, I recuse myself from those discussions. There aren't many of them. It's still very small business to Apple. And I'm not at the point where I, you know, I believe it's problematic, but it's something that I have to continue to monitor.
Apple named Iger to its board of directors in 2011 under the leadership of CEO Tim Cook.

Disney+ will feature both new and existing movies and series from Disney and its brands, including Pixar, Star Wars, Marvel, and National Geographic. It will also offer series from Fox, including all 30 seasons of The Simpsons.

The service is slated to launch November 12 for $6.99 per month in the United States, with a worldwide rollout in major countries expected by 2021. Disney+ will be accessible on the web, smartphones, smart TVs, tablets, media players like Roku, game consoles like the PS4, and likely the Apple TV.

Apple TV+ will feature original movies and TV shows with well-known directors, producers, and actors such as Jennifer Aniston and Steven Spielberg. The service will be accessible through Apple's TV app on iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and the Mac starting in the fall, but Apple has yet to reveal pricing.


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Disney Offers First Look at Upcoming Disney+ App, Launching in November for $6.99 Per Month

Disney today shared a first look at its upcoming Disney+ streaming service, providing new details on how it will work and what features will be included.

The dedicated Disney+ app, which will house Disney+ content, looks rather similar to other streaming television apps, such as Apple's own TV app and Netflix.


The screenshot shared by Disney CEO Bob Iger features a dark interface with individual categories for different Disney franchises, including standard Disney fare, Pixar, Star Wars, Marvel, and National Geographic, complete with a "Continue Watching" feature and recommendations.

Disney+ content will be available through the Disney+ app on web browsers, smartphones, smart TVs, tablets, and game consoles, essentially everywhere you can watch most streaming services. Deals have already been secured with Roku and Sony for a PS4 version of the app, but there was no mention of the Apple TV.

Individual profiles for each user in the household will be supported, and Disney plans to allow content to be downloaded for offline viewing. Disney will provide TV shows and movies in 4K HDR.

When Apple launches its TV+ service with its original content this fall and Disney launches Disney+, the two companies are set to become serious competitors, as both services will offer up exclusive content unavailable on other platforms.


Disney+ will house existing Disney content, but Disney is also developing new content for the streaming service. Some of the announced TV shows include "Falcon and Winter Soldier" based on the two Avengers characters, "WandaVision" with Wanda Maximoff and The Vision, a TV show based on "Monsters, Inc.," a TV show based on "High School Musical," a Frozen 2 documentary, a Star Wars series, a live-action version of "Lady and the Tramp," two projects featuring Marvel characters Loki and Hawkeye, and much more. All Pixar content will be on Disney+ the first year of launch, as will all Pixar theatrical shorts and all Star Wars films.

Disney may also be planning to offer bundled content, perhaps providing a discount for subscribers who purchase Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+, but little detail was provided on Disney's bundling plans.

Disney plans to launch Disney+ on November 12, 2019, and it will be priced at $6.99 per month, which is much lower than other streaming services on the market. Disney is also offering a yearly subscription price of $69.99, which is even cheaper.

With its fall launch, Disney+ will be coming out right around the same time that Apple TV+ launches. Apple hasn't provided a specific launch date, but has said that the new streaming service will come out in the fall.

Tag: Disney

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Disney Completes $71.3 Billion Acquisition of 21st Century Fox

After first confirming its plan to acquire certain parts of 21st Century Fox in December 2017, today The Walt Disney Company has officially closed its $71.3 billion acquisition of Fox (via The Hollywood Reporter). The deal had to go through various regulatory and antitrust reviews, and Disney saw a bit of competition with Comcast for Fox's assets throughout 2018.


Now, Disney owns 20th Century Fox Film and Television studios, the FX stable of networks, National Geographic, and the Fox-related cable and international TV businesses, like India's Star India. The acquisition has also made Disney the majority owner of Hulu thanks to Fox's 30 percent stake in the streaming service, combined with Disney's existing 30 percent stake. Disney is said to also be looking into acquiring WarnerMedia's 10 percent Hulu stake, but will leave the service as it is and focus mainly on its upcoming Disney+ platform instead of altering Hulu.

For Disney+, the company now has a huge back catalog of Fox films and TV shows to bolster its not-yet-released streaming service, and potentially entice more customers to join. It's already been confirmed that Disney+ will host "the entire Disney motion picture library," signaling the end of the Disney Vault in the process and allowing subscribers to stream any Disney film they desire.

There will also be new original TV shows and films based on Disney properties, like The Mandalorian set in the Star Wars universe, and a Marvel show focused on Tom Hiddleston's Loki. Disney plans for the service to be family-friendly and educational, with shows based on Monsters, Inc. and documentaries about Walt Disney Imagineering. This content will now be combined with Disney-owned Fox properties, including films from the X-Men and Avatar franchises, and many more.

The impact of the acquisition is expected to lead to between 4,000 and 10,000 layoffs. What's leftover of the new Fox Corporation will now focus on news and sports in the United States more so than entertainment programming, including the Fox broadcast network, TV stations, the Fox News channels, and Fox Sports, none of which Disney acquired.

Disney's interest in Fox started with its bid to acquire a large portion of Fox's assets for $52.4 billion in stock in late 2017. Comcast entered with its own $65 million cash offer for Fox's assets, leading to Disney's increased $71.3 billion cash and stock bid in June 2018. At the time that it bowed out of the running for Fox, Comcast CEO Brian L. Roberts congratulated Disney and its CEO Bob Iger and commended the Murdoch family and Fox "for creating such a desirable and respected company."

With the acquisition, Disney+ is also becoming a big competitor to current and future streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Apple's own TV service, which is set to be unveiled next week. Apple's platform is taking the Disney+ approach, with many original TV shows and films produced by Apple that will be mixed in with purchased content from third parties. We don't know yet how much Apple's service will cost or what shows will be available at launch, but we should get more details in just a few days, as the company's "It's Show Time" event kicks off on Monday, March 25 at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time.

Tags: Disney, Fox

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Disney+ Streaming Platform to Host Entire Disney Motion Picture Library

Disney CEO Bob Iger has shared additional details on the company's upcoming Disney+ streaming service, which will compete with Apple's forthcoming digital video platform.

Speaking to shareholders on Thursday, Iger said the Disney service will offer subscribers "the entire Disney motion picture library," and will signal the end of the so-called "Disney Vault".

The service, which I mentioned earlier is going to launch later in the year, is going to combine what we call library product, movies, and television, with a lot of original product as well, movies and television. And at some point fairly soon after launch it will house the entire Disney motion picture library, so the movies that you speak of that traditionally have been kept in a "vault" and brought out basically every few years will be on the service. And then, of course, we're producing a number of original movies and original television shows as well that will be Disney-branded.
As Polygon notes, Disney typically makes individual titles available on home video for limited periods of time. Once a run of a particular movie on DVD and Blu-ray has sold through, Disney returns it to the "Vault" until it's released again.

Iger also said that newer films will find a home on Disney+ within a year of their theatrical release. "It's going to combine both the old and the new," Iger continued. "All of the films that we're releasing this year, [starting] with Captain Marvel, will also be on the service."

Disney+, which will be home to Disney, Star Wars, and Marvel content, is set to launch in "late 2019," more than two years after it was first announced in August 2017.

Earlier this week, Bloomberg reported that Apple's upcoming video streaming service and its work on original TV content could spell trouble for Apple board member and Disney CEO Bob Iger, citing the potential for competition between the two companies.

Apple plans to introduce its streaming TV service at a March 25 event but it is expected to launch later in the year.

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Disney CEO’s Board Seat ‘at Risk’ With Apple Planning to Launch Video Service

Apple's upcoming video streaming service and its work on original TV content could spell trouble for Apple board member and Disney CEO Bob Iger, reports Bloomberg, citing the potential for competition between the two companies.

Iger is potentially at risk of losing his seat on Apple's board as Apple prepares to launch its streaming TV service. Apple already has more than two dozen original TV shows in the works and has purchased rights to several movies, with all of that content set to be offered via the upcoming service.

Image via Bloomberg

Apple's service, which it plans to introduce at a March 25 event but launch later in the year, will also incorporate add-on content from other providers like SHOWTIME.

Disney, like Apple, is working on its own streaming service, Disney+, and is potentially set to be one of Apple's competitors. Disney+ will offer Disney, Star Wars, and Marvel content (including content made just for Disney+), and like Apple's TV service, it will launch in 2019. Disney also recently acquired Fox's assets, giving it majority control over Hulu and other channels and film franchises.

Apple proxy filings that have detailed "arms-length commercial dealings" with Disney have specified that Iger does not have a "material direct or indirect interest" in the deals, but Bloomberg suggests that could change when both companies have launched their streaming services.

John Coffee, director of the Center on Corporate Governance at Columbia Law School told Bloomberg that Disney and Apple "might have to recognize that they will become active competitors in the near future." Both companies likely have legal advisers exploring whether Iger should continue to be on Apple's board, according to Coffee.

Iger, who was a good friend of Steve Jobs, has been on Apple's board since 2011, but there is precedent for a board member leaving due to increasing competition. Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt was previously on Apple's board, but resigned in 2009 after Google entered the smartphone market.

Tag: Disney

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Disney in Talks to Acquire WarnerMedia’s 10% Stake in Hulu, Resulting in 70% Ownership After Fox Acquisition

Disney is in active discussions with AT&T in an effort to acquire the 10 percent ownership stake that WarnerMedia has in Hulu, according to a report by Variety. Disney already owns a 30 percent stake in Hulu, and is soon to gain Fox's 30 percent stake once regulatory approvals for the Disney/20th Century Fox acquisition go through.


This means that if Disney does end up with both AT&T and Fox's stakes, it will own a 70 percent majority of the Hulu streaming service. The last remaining company with a stake is Comcast/NBCUniversal, and in a statement last month NBCU CEO Steve Burke said that "Disney would like to buy us out...I don't think anything's going to happen in the near term."

At this point, it's believed that even with a 70 percent control of Hulu, Disney would leave the platform as it is, focused on general entertainment with TV shows and films for subscribers to watch. In contrast, the upcoming Disney+ streaming service will be the platform where customers can get Disney-focused content in a more family-friendly environment.

For AT&T, the company is said to be looking to sell its minority stake in Hulu as it prepares to launch its own streaming service in late 2019. This service will be divided into three tiers: "one focused on movies; one with movies plus original programming; and a third tier comprising content from the first two along with WarnerMedia library content and licensed programming."

Apple's own entry into the streaming service market will happen soon, as the company plans to introduce its TV service at an event on March 25. While we will likely gain a lot of information about the service at that time, it's not expected to launch until the summer or fall of 2019.

Tags: AT&T, Disney, Hulu

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Sphero Discontinues Disney Products Including BB-8 and R2-D2

Sphero, known for its popular BB-8, BB-9E, and R2-D2 iPhone-controlled droids, today confirmed that it is discontinuing all licensed products.

In a statement provided to The Verge, Sphero CEO Paul Berberian confirmed that Sphero is cleaning out its remaining licensed inventory and has no plans to produce more.


Sphero will no longer make BB-8, BB-9E, R2-D2, Lightning McQueen cars, or talking Spider-Man toys. None of the products are available from the Sphero website anymore, with Sphero instead selling its own Bolt, Mini, and SPRK+ products.

The licensed products are now "legacy products" no longer in production, though App Support is set to continue for at least two years.

Berberian said that Sphero is discontinuing its Disney partnership because the licensed toy business "required more resources" than it was worth, with sales waning over time after a movie was released.
"When you launch a toy, your first year's your biggest," he says. "Your second year's way smaller, and your third year gets really tiny." The opposite is true of the company's non-licensed educational robots, he says, which become more popular year after year.
With its licensed partnerships at an end, Sphero will now focus on expanding its educational ecosystem with the goal of getting more products into schools.

Tags: Disney, Sphero

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Disney’s Upcoming Streaming Service ‘Disney+’ to Launch in Late 2019

Disney today shared additional details on its planned streaming service, which will be called Disney+.

Disney+, which will be home to Disney, Star Wars, and Marvel content, is set to launch in "late 2019," more than two years after it was first announced in August 2017.


Along with the name for the service, Disney today also shared details on additional content that's coming to Disney+. Disney is creating a second Star Wars live-action series for the service that's set to go into production next year.
The series will follow the adventures of Rebel spy Cassian Andor during the formative years of the Rebellion and prior to the events of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Diego Luna will reprise the role of Andor, which he originated in the 2016 film.
Disney is also working on a live-action series that's centered around Loki, which will star Tom Hiddleston, who has played Loki in the Thor series of movies.

The two new projects join previously announced content for Disney+ like new stories set in the worlds of Monsters Inc., High School Musical, and Star Wars, which includes "The Mandalorian," a live-action series written by Jon Favreau that is set after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order.

It's not clear what Disney plans on charging for the Disney+ streaming service, but last year, Iger said that it would be priced "substantially below" Netflix's service. Netflix costs $7.99 for basic SD streaming on one screen and $10.99 for HD streaming on two screens.

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Disney Facing ‘Resistance’ From Turner in Effort to Get TV Rights of ‘Star Wars’ Films for Streaming Service

It's been nearly one year since Disney announced that it will pull all of its movies from Netflix and launch its own streaming service in late 2019, including both TV shows and movies from Marvel and Star Wars. This week, however, Bloomberg reports that the company is facing troubles with the TV rights to the Star Wars film franchise, dating back to a deal it made with Turner Broadcasting in 2016.


Under that agreement, Turner gained the linear basic cable and companion ad-supported on-demand rights to five of the six Star Wars films released between 1977 and 2005 (The Empire Strikes Back to Revenge of the Sith), as well as the new films that began releasing in 2015 (as of now including The Force Awakens, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, The Last Jedi, and Solo: A Star Wars Story). With these rights, which also includes A New Hope rights inked in a deal with 20th Century Fox, Turner has been airing the Star Wars movies on networks like TNT and TBS, and its deal with Disney grants it the ability to keep doing so until 2024.

Now that Disney is planning its own dedicated streaming service, however, the company wants these rights back so it can be the sole location for users to find and stream the entire Star Wars canon. To do so, Disney has made a "preliminary inquiry" about regaining the rights, but has "met resistance" from Turner, according to people familiar with the matter.

Turner would reportedly want financial considerations and programming to replace the Star Wars films it would lose, but the talks have yet to advance. If Disney doesn't get the rights back, its streaming service would be missing one of the main franchises that many users would be signing up for, although new Star Wars content could appear, such as numerous Star Wars TV shows "specifically" created for the service.

As we get near the launch of Disney's direct-to-consumer app, more of its films have begun disappearing from Netflix, including titles like Finding Dory this month. In regards to Star Wars, Bloomberg reports that Disney's deal with Netflix for recent Star Wars films -- including the currently-streaming Star Wars: The Last Jedi -- will expire "at the end of this year."

Similar to Disney, Apple is on the hunt to fill its own upcoming streaming TV service with an instant catalog of existing shows and potentially even movies. Apple hasn't discussed its streaming service as much as Disney, however, so it's still unclear how it will launch, how much it will be (Disney says its own will be priced "substantially below" Netflix), and when exactly users will be able to watch the first TV shows beyond sometime after March 2019.

At the same time that Disney attempts to negotiate the TV rights to the Star Wars films back into its fold, the company is nearing completion on its $71.3 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox's entertainment assets, which will provide another influx of content for its streaming service.


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