Hulu is an online streaming service. It was initially established as a joint venture between News Corporation and NBC Universal, Providence Equity Partners, and later The Walt Disney Company. It served as an aggregation of recent episodes of television series from their television networks. But who owns Hulu in 2021? As of September 2021, The Walt Disney Company is the majority owner of Hulu.
Walt Disney owns 67% of the shares of Hulu. Comcast is the second major shareholder with 33% of the shares.
In 2010, Hulu became the first streaming service to add Plus to the name. At the time Hulu Plus launched a subscription service featuring full seasons of programs from the companies and other partners.
Then in 2017, the company launched Hulu with Live TV, an over-the-top IPTV service featuring linear television channels. Let’s talk more about Hulu history and how the company got into the hands of Disney.
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What Does The Name Stand For?
The name Hulu comes from two Mandarin Chinese words. They are húlu (葫芦/葫蘆) and hùlù (互录/互錄). The first one translates to calabash, bottle gourd. And the second one translates to interactive recording.
In the name of Jason Kilar, the name comes from a Chinese proverb. He said, “Hulu is Mandarin for gourd. And so when we were launching Hulu, we thought, ‘what a great name that is.’ And it had this great sort of symbolism of the holder of precious things, which is the holder of premium content. So that’s why we named it Hulu.”
History Of The Company
There are a couple of individuals that served an instrumental role in the founding of Hulu. Those are Bruce Campbell, Peter Chernin, JB Perrette, Mike Lang, Beth Comstock, Geroge Kliavkoff, Darren Feher, and Jason Kilar.
The first time Hulu was announced in March 2006 with AOL, NBC Universal, Facebook, MSN, Myspace, and Yahoo. Those were the companies planned as initial distribution partners. Jason Kilar was named Hulu CEO in late 2007.
They chose the name in late August 2007 when the website went live. They announced the name only and no content. Hulu invited users to leave their email addresses for the upcoming beta test.
By October 2007, the streaming service began the private beta testing by invitation. After a while, the company allowed users to invite friends.
The television service began an advertising campaign during Super Bowl XLIII with an ad starring Alec Baldwin. Titled “Alec in Huluwood”, it was the first of many advertisements. Later on, Will Arnett, Seth MacFarlane, Denis Leary, and others have joined Huluwood.
In July 2007, Providence Equity Partners, owners of Newport television, became one of the early and first outside investors. They purchased a 10% stake in the company for a $100 million equity investment.
In August 2010, a report revealed that Hulu planned an initial public offering. But on June 21, 2011, The Wall Street Journal reported that an unsolicited offer caused Hulu to “begin weighing whether to sell itself”.
Then, in October 2011, Hulu and its owners announced they will not sell the company. The reason was simple, none of the bidders offered a satisfactory amount.
In 2011, the streaming platform generated $420 million in revenue, just $80 short of the target. In October 2012, Providence sold its 10% stake to other owners.
In March 2019, Disney acquired 21st Century Fox, giving the company 60% majority stake in Hulu. Compact, the other majority holder, announced it reached an agreement with Disney to sell its 33% ownership stake as early as 2024. So, in a couple of years, Disney will be the only majority owner of Hulu.
In May 2019, Compact relinquished its control in Hulu to Disney effective immediately. So, the streaming service became a division of Walt Disney Direct to Consumer & International with Comcast serving as a silent partner.
Disney CEO Bob Iger explained that the direct integration will allow increased investment in original content. NBC Universal will continue to license its content to the service through 2024. It will have the option to begin transitioning exclusivity deals with Hulu to non-exclusive teams as soon as 2020.
Disney at the time had ESPN+ and its forthcoming Disney+ service.
In June 2021, a report surfaced stating that Disney and Comcast are in dispute over the future of Hulu. The latter company argued that Disney and its decision not to expand Hulu internationally has undermined its growth prospect.
Comcast believed that will reduce the price Disney would need to pay to buy out Comcast’s share by 2024. As of now, the two companies are in arbitration over the value of the streaming service.
Hulu Benefiting From Disney
Hulu benefits in many ways from being part of the Disney company. One way is that Hulu is now part of the Disney Bundle. That bundle includes access to Hulu, Disney+, and ESPN+.
Fans can watch thousands of hit movies and TV shows from the streaming library of Hulu. They can customize the Bundle to include Hulu plan of their choice.
Disney Plus gives fans access to many series, movies, short-form content from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and many more. And ESPN Plus offers a variety of live and on-demand sports content including games, news, shows, and many more.
There is no free trial for the Disney Bundle. Fans can sign up for the product as long as they are new to all three services, live in the United States, and are 18 years or older.
And if you already are Hulu subscriber, you can subscribe to The Disney Bundle as long as you are not billed for your Hulu subscription through a third party.
The best part is you can customize your Bundle to include the Hulu plan of your choice. You can get no ads service if you like.
All three services are available for download on a variety of devices.
The Future of Hulu
One of the questions fans have in 2021 is whether Walt Disney is giving up on Hulu. Disney will take full control of the company by 2024, but the future of the streaming application seems uncertain. The coronavirus pandemic has increased subscriptions for services like Hulu, Netflix, and similar.
But more than a year after the Fox acquisition, Hulu looks like the forgotten part of the plan. Part of the reason why fans fear for the future of Hulu is that Disney announced it would launch an international streaming service under Star, an Indian TV Brand the company got in the Fox deal.
Yet, the more obvious reason for Hulu’s decline is Disney Plus. The latter has stolen the show and became the juggernaut in Disney’s streaming arsenal. Disney+ has brought in more than 60 million members since its launch, mostly thanks to Marvel and Star Wars TV shows.
Disney Plus has exceeded the expectations of the company. Disney originally forecasted the streaming service to reach between 60 and 90 million subscribers globally by 2024. But that happened just seven months after the launch.
Bob Iger, CEO of Disney, said that Hulu might launch internationally next year. But with the plans to make Star the international streaming service, chances of Hulu going abroad do not seem plausible.
So, is Disney giving up on Hulu? Launched in 2008, Hulu continues to lose money. Last year, Hulu was expected to lose $1.5 billion. But because it is part of Disney, the results are included in the direct-to-consumer segment and not broken out on an individual basis.
Hulu has a strong advertising business, higher average subscription revenue per user than Disney+, and a broad content slate. But for now, Hulu exists in a corporate no-man’s land.