Disney just awakened the potential of Hulu
Did you see the Golden Globes this year? Honestly, I didn’t, but my wife was looking up at it. I know this because I helped make sure the NBC live stream worked well on our Roku.
The Golden Globes are historically a celebration of traditional media: television broadcasts, cable shows, movies, etc. This year marked a turning point, underscored by the fact that my wife, who is not a tech savvy, streamed the event rather than watching it on cable.
Tech companies dominated the award ceremony. Amazon claimed Best Television Series, Musical or Comedy with The wonderful Mrs. Maisel, with lead actress Rachel Brosnahan also claiming the Best Actress award in the category. From Netflix Nobody’s masterAziz Ansari won the award for Best Performance in a Television Series, Musical or Comedy.
Finally, Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale won for Best Series, Drama, with lead actress Elisabeth Moss claiming the Best Actress award in the category.
It was the first time that streaming services had won the top two television categories at the Golden Globes. In the end, the “new big three” had won five of the 11 television categories.
2017 was a spectacular year for online streaming, but 2018 could be even bigger. Both Netflix and Amazon are poised to grow considerably, especially considering the billions they are spending on creating and acquiring content.
However, heading into 2018, a dark horse has entered the competition, one that will shake up the current hierarchy of the new Big Three and offer a solid investment option in the process. That dark horse … or mouse, in this case … is The Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS).
The mouse is roaring
In the third quarter of last year, Disney announced that it was launching its own streaming service. At the time, the idea had merit, but was largely overlooked since Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu dominated the online streaming market.
Despite having volumes of quality content, Disney still had a lot of work to do. Designing an online streaming platform from scratch is no small feat. If it were easy, there would be a lot more competition in the market.
But the situation changed dramatically in December when Disney announced that it would buy the film, television and international assets of Twenty-First Century Fox for $ 52.4 billion. On the surface, the deal appeared to be a major content grab for the media conglomerate. In one fell swoop, Disney took the Avatar franchise, The Simpsons TV series and Marvel rights X Men franchise, among many others.
More importantly, however, Disney got a majority stake in Hulu. Before the acquisition, Disney, Fox and Comcast each controlled about 30% of the Big 3 online streaming service, with Time Warner’s 10% stake making the difference. After the purchase, Disney now controls a 60% majority stake in Hulu.
Only Comcast’s 30% stake now stands in the way of Disney owning its own online streaming service. In other words, you no longer need to build one from scratch. Plus, Hulu is growing fast.
Hulu is a growth engine
Last week, Hulu announced that it had more than 17 million total subscribers between its on-demand service and its live TV plan. According to Hulu, those numbers were up 40% compared to 2016. The company also said its total audience grew to 54 million unique viewers in total.
Now, many investors will likely scoff at the 17 million subscribers in a market where Netflix has more than 52 million subscribers. But remember, when we think about investing, we want growth.
Netflix isn’t a bad investment, but it’s not likely to see 40% subscriber growth again in a year … especially in the United States. The market is too saturated with Netflix accounts for that.
Hulu, on the other hand, has always had a lot of room to grow, it simply lacked a controlling sponsor with the right mix of content out of the box. With the Disney acquisition, that problem is solved, and both Netflix and Amazon have big and nice goals behind them.
The caveat about Disney’s control of Hulu is, of course, Comcast’s stake in the company. But the two seem to have a mutual respect for each other.
Last February, Comcast offered to merge with Disney, an unsolicited offer that Disney clearly rejected. More recently, Comcast pulled out of the bidding war for Fox assets, clearing the way for Disney to take over.
There is also the possibility that Disney will go ahead with launching its own branded streaming service. Combine this with ESPN’s sports service Disney is planning, and the company could control three different streaming services in 2018. That’s a sizeable chunk of the online entertainment market and worth investing in.
Invest in Walt Disney stocks
Disney shares were far from the best performers last year. But Disney stocks have become a momentum game heading into 2018.
The shares have risen from their September low, with DIS regaining support. Additionally, Disney has pushed its 50- and 200-day moving averages to a bullish crossover, a technical formation that often indicates longer-term gains for stocks.
DIS’s 14-day Relative Strength Index (RSI) sits close to overbought levels. In other words, traders may want to wait for a pullback before initiating a position, depending on their risk tolerance in their portfolio.
That said, with Disney’s growth potential this year with Hulu, its own streaming services, and its sizzling franchises like Star Wars and Marvel, a small risk is worth the potential return.