While News Corp. and Walt Disney Co. consider offers for Hulu from several companies including Time Warner Cable, Yahoo and DirecTV, what all this means for the third owner of the online video site — Comcast Corp. — remain a mystery.
Comcast inherited its 32% stake in Hulu when it purchased control of NBCUniversal in 2011. As part of the consent decree Comcast agreed to in return for government approval of the deal, it is a silent partner in Hulu's operations for seven years.
There is an assumption that if Disney and News Corp. sell out of Hulu then Comcast will do the same.
But while Comcast can't increase its stake in Hulu or have any say in the operations, it also doesn't have to sell just because the other owners choose to do so, according to people familiar with the decree.
Also, whoever buys Hulu does not need to purchase Comcast's stake to take control of the site. Acquiring Disney and News Corp. is essentially buying 100% of the company at two-thirds the price, at least until the decree expires in 2018, which in digital years is a lifetime from now.