Comcast CEO Brian Roberts has spoken out about the showdown between Hollywood giant Walt Disney and cable giant Charter Communications, while also talking about the one-third stake of his company in Hulu that will be sold to Disney.
Roberts reported that Sept. 30 will be an initial deadline for Disney to get going using a put option, requiring the studio that owns the remaining two-thirds of Hulu to take over its minority stake. “As of Sept. 30, after a short period of time, Disney can call, we can put, and I believe eventually that will happen,” Roberts told the Goldman Sachs Communcacopia + Technology Conference during a session that was webcast about the Disney-Charter transportation dispute. .
He also talked about the valuation of the stake in Hulu, which would likely bottom at just under $30 billion. “I think we’re excited to get this resolved and the $27.5 billion minimum, that was just a hypothetical hypothesis that we picked out for five years. The company is much more valuable today than it was then,” Roberts said, arguing that Hulu and Netflix are “in a league of their own.”
He added that the put call would be triggered about 30 days after the starting gun was fired on Sept. 30, but that both sides were assessing the value of the Hulu stake and that more potential candidates could come forward. “That’s a scarce possession of the King,” Roberts said of the Hulu stake that would be up for auction.
Roberts also talked about the showdown between Disney and Charter. “This dispute is creating tension around some issues. I hope they come out. It’s in the consumer’s best interest,” Roberts said at the investor conference. With cable and streaming losses still impacting media and entertainment companies, Charter has complained that the rising affiliate fees they have to pay for TV networks reaching fewer and fewer viewers makes less business sense.
“I look at our company. We don’t consider it linear or streaming. We consider it linear and streaming. With Peacock and NBCUniversal and Xfinity, we are the best aggregator. We have all the streaming apps, all linear in one place,” Roberts argued, pointing to Peacock, NBCUniversal’s ad-supported streaming platform, which bolsters its company’s content offerings to consumers alongside NBC and live sports.
“Each company is dealing with its version of this moment of transformation. You’ll see some tension,” he said. Roberts added that Comcast’s growing broadband capabilities will lead to more live sports in the streaming space and other innovations.
“That needs bandwidth and it doesn’t need to freeze if the ball stays in the air,” he added, as rival Disney looks ahead to ESPN targeting the streaming space.