RECENT POSTS
Wednesday, December 11, 2019
Finding and Assessing ‘Contribution Margin’

Monday, December 9, 2019
Cycling Through Peloton’s Financials

Monday, November 25, 2019
Calcbench and Academic Research

Friday, November 22, 2019
Disney’s Cliffhanger With Hulu

Tuesday, November 19, 2019
Starbucks on Leasing Costs

Friday, November 15, 2019
The Devil Is in the Discount Rate

Tuesday, November 12, 2019
A Look at Product Warranty Accruals

Thursday, November 7, 2019
CHS Limps Through Weather & War

Wednesday, November 6, 2019
Master Class: Preparing for Recession

Sunday, October 27, 2019
When Operating Leases Weigh Down ROA

Wednesday, October 23, 2019
Feeling the Squeeze on China

Tuesday, October 22, 2019
Netflix and the Cost of Content

Wednesday, October 9, 2019
U.S. firms with Sales in China through 2018.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019
Tracking  Pension Data in Calcbench

Friday, October 4, 2019
In Depth: Leasing Costs in Retail Sector

Thursday, September 19, 2019
Alibaba and Cloud Computing

Monday, September 16, 2019
Introducing Critical Audit Matters

Wednesday, September 11, 2019
Our Fireside Chat on Goodwill Assets

Friday, September 6, 2019
Pulling Forward Share Buybacks

Saturday, August 31, 2019
A Quick Catch-Up on VMWare

Archive  |  Search:
Now Streaming on Hulu: Red Ink
Monday, February 11, 2019

Comcast Corp. ($CMCSA) filed its 2018 annual report at the end of January, which gives us fresh opportunity to catch up on one of our pet interests: the value of Hulu.

We write about Hulu from time to time because it’s a huge player in streaming media, but isn’t publicly traded — so its financial data is somewhat hard to find. Then again, Hulu is owned by four entertainment giants: Comcast, Disney, and Fox, which own 30 percent each; plus Time-Warner with a 10 percent stake.

So if you know where to look in the filings of those companies, you can assemble a better, although still incomplete, picture of Hulu’s performance over the years.

The best place to look these days is the Comcast filing. There in the Investments section of its disclosures, Comcast reports that it owns a 30 percent stake in Hulu and recorded a $454 million loss in 2018 for its share of Hulu operations.

Well, do the math. If 30 percent ownership gives you a $454 million loss, that implies that Hulu’s total loss for 2018 was (gulp) $1.5 billion.

Yikes, we wondered, could that be right? So we pulled up Fox’s most recent annual report, which it filed last August. (Fox has a June 30 fiscal year-end.) There in the Investments section of Fox’s disclosures, it reported a loss of $445 million for its 30 percent ownership stake.

So, yes. Hulu loses a ton of money. We knew that already, based on previous posts we’ve written about Hulu. Still, for historical perspective, using those same calculations from prior years’ disclosures, Hulu’s losses have been…

  • 2014: $20 million;
  • 2016: $523 million;
  • 2017: $716 million.

Wow. And why, exactly, are those losses ballooning so much? Consider this disclosure from Disney’s most recent annual report, filed last November:

The higher loss at Hulu was due to higher programming, marketing and labor costs, partially offset by growth in subscription and advertising revenue

In fairness, Disney and Hulu’s other owners have been disclosing that sentence for three years running now.

One other detail one can pull from the disclosures: a rough estimate of what Hulu might be worth as a business. Hulu was originally founded by Disney, Fox, and Comcast alone, each owning 33 percent of the venture. Time Warner then bought 10 percent of Hulu in August 2016 for $590 million. That implies a value of $5.9 billion at the time.

So what is Hulu worth today? That’s hard to say. First, Fox is selling its 30 percent stake to Disney as part of larger asset purchase deal. That means Disney will become Hulu’s majority owner with a 60 percent stake in the business. We’re still waiting on that deal to close sometime later this spring, and maybe we’ll get a better sense of the purchase price for this particular asset then.

Meanwhile, one of Hulu’s top executives said just this week that the business had double-digit subscriber growth in 2018 (growing fastest in the United States), and now has 25 million paying subscribers. The Hulu exec was upbeat about Disney owning a majority stake.

Then again, what else would you say when you’re a senior exec trying to keep your job?


FREE Calcbench Premium
Two Week Trial

Research Financial & Accounting Data Like Never Before. More features and try our Excel add-in. Sign up now to try the Premium Suite.