AT&T has sold its 10 percent stake in Hulu back to the streaming service today for $1.43 billion dollars, in a move that will now give Disney (which already had gained a controlling interest in Hulu through its Fox purchase) even more control going forward.
Post-purchase, that puts Disney’s stake in Hulu as owning 66 percent of the service, with Comcast owning the remaining 33 percent. As a sign of how quickly this has progressed, 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 10 percent stake.
Disney gaining even more control over Hulu could also mean a radical shift in what Hulu even is. Right now, the site offers streaming content from a huge range of providers, including Comcast-owned NBC and Universal, and AT&T-owned networks like TBS and TNT.
But with AT&T no longer in the game and the balance of power firmly shifted in Disney’s favor, it’s easy to imagine a future where Comcast and AT&T pull out their shows entirely in favor of their own streaming efforts, leaving Hulu as an exclusively Disney service that compliments the upcoming 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+ (Hulu offering more mature content) and even the potential for a joint bundle.
And 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.