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Comcast CEO says 'more likely than not' Hulu stake is sold to Disney

Comcast (CMCSA) CEO Brian Roberts is fairly confident the company will sell its minority stake in the streaming service Hulu to Disney (DIS).

Disney currently owns two-thirds of Hulu with Comcast’s Universal controlling the rest.

Under the terms of the joint ownership agreement, Comcast could require Disney to buy out its stake in the streamer as early as January 2024.

"I think it's more likely than not that we go through," Roberts said at MoffettNathanson's Inaugural Technology, Media and Telecom conference on Tuesday. "We've said all along that the vast majority case is we'll put [and] they'll call at the beginning of next year."

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Roberts referenced Disney CEO Bob Iger's recent earnings call comments regarding the "positive[s]" of general entertainment, adding, "Part of the calculus of why I think that is probably the case is I think Disney recognizes, as anybody else would recognize, that Hulu is really valuable."

Brian Roberts, Chairman and CEO of Comcast, speaks at the conference
Brian Roberts, Chairman and CEO of Comcast, speaks at the conference "Ignition: Future of Digital," Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Under the agreement between Comcast and Disney, Hulu would be priced at a guaranteed minimum equity value of $27.5 billion (or about $9.2 billion for the 33% stake.)

"I'm pretty certain if and when we sell our Hulu stake, it will be for more than what we have in it. In fact, that's contractually certain," Roberts said during Thursday's conference.

Iger, meanwhile, said on Disney's most recent earnings 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.

FILE - Bob Iger speaks at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum, Sept. 25, 2019, in New York. Since Iger returned to The Walt Disney Co. there's been plenty of issues to keep him busy, one has definitely been top of mind: reconnecting with the Disney theme park die-hards and restoring their faith in the brand. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
FILE - Bob Iger speaks at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum, Sept. 25, 2019, in New York. Since Iger returned to The Walt Disney Co. there's been plenty of issues to keep him busy, one has definitely been top of mind: reconnecting with the Disney theme park die-hards and restoring their faith in the brand. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Iger recently changed his view on Hulu after saying earlier this year that "everything was on the table" in regards to the streaming giant's future.

During Disney's quarterly earnings call on May 11, he explained, "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, who said he's now "bullish" on the combination of Disney+ with Hulu, revealed the company will soon offer a one-app experience domestically that incorporates Hulu content via Disney+.

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

Ultimately, Comcast's Roberts said he believes a Hulu sale "will be good for our shareholders" as the company focuses on its own streaming offering, Peacock, which recently secured the first exclusive live-streamed NFL playoff game.

Roberts said Peacock currently boasts around 22 million paying users, with many consuming "loads of digital advertising" — what he described as the "most valuable advertising."

"We've been the fastest-growing SVOD, AVOD combo service and we have a pretty exciting 2023. ...We're well-positioned as a company," he concluded.

Alexandra Canal is a Senior Reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @allie_canal, LinkedIn, and email her at alexandra.canal@yahoofinance.com

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