These Entertainment Acquisitions Are More Political Than You’d Think

Published on April 16, 2019

As if starting its own streaming service isn’t enough, Disney just landed on a controlling share of Hulu by somewhat of a fluke. AT&T sold its shares of Hulu back to the company this week for $1.43 billion. Although this may not seem like much, it puts the controlling share of the company into the hands of Disney because of the Fox merger that happened recently. Prior to the merging of Fox/Disney, Hulu’s ownership was split evenly between Comcast, Fox, and Disney, with AT&T holding the remaining 10%.

What’s Next For Hulu?

What this means for Hulu is that things are going to change. Whether Disney continues to keep Hulu as a streaming service for popular TV and film relevant right now is up in the air. The company could continue Hulu down the path it’s already on, or change what Hulu is about completely. AT&T also recently purchased TimeWarner, meaning that it may have ideas to pull its own library of content off of the streaming platform and create its own streaming platform.

Given that Disney is about to release Disney+ this fall, it’s interesting that the company would be in the market for another streaming app. However, Disney has hinted that it’s got big plans for what it will do with Hulu that could have been the reason AT&T jumped ship in the first place. Disney will potentially offer a joint package on the two, offering a variety of more mature content on Hulu’s platform while keeping the Disney vault, with a sprinkling of Fox, National Geographic, and Marvel on the Disney+ app.

If Comcast were to sell its shares of the company as well, this is likely the direction that Hulu will be heading. Regardless, expect to see a major change in the content available on Hulu’s app in the recent future. TimeWarner, which owns networks like NBC, CNN, Cartoon Network, Warner Bros., and even HBO, may pull its entire library off of Hulu now that AT&T (it’s umbrella owner) no longer has stake in the company.

How This Is Political

Meanwhile AT&T has been up to a lot more than just selling off its stake in Hulu. It’s purchase of Time Warner goes back as far as 2016. But wasn’t completed until 2018. With the Trump White House angered by the acquisition, it sent the Justice Department to do what it could to stop the merger from happening. An article published by the New Yorker just last month accuses the Trump Administration of attempting to block the merger altogether. This was in an effort to control which companies own certain media outlets (ahem, CNN).

The New Yorker article asserts that Fox news has become a vital piece of the Trump political machine in a way that borders on propaganda. Controlling which companies take ownership of Fox’s greatest competitor, CNN, means that the Trump Administration can attempt to control what is being said without actually getting involved.

Two House Democrats (Rep. Jerry Nadler and Rep. David Cicilline of New York and Rhode Island, respectively) filed for a probe of the reasons behind Trump’s attempt to block the merger back in 2018. This week, the White House denied access to that information. The merger was approved by the Department of Justice in a 3 to 1 vote. The department oversees whether or not a single entity is in control of too many media outlets. The White House wrote a letter in response to Nadler and Cicilline claiming that the information would not be released to protect the confidentiality of the Presidency.

A Battle For The Media

Regardless of what your preferred media outlet is, you should know who owns the controlling stake behind it. Take the story about Jeff Bezos being blackmailed by The National Enquirer, for example. The news outlet threatened to go public with the Amazon CEO’s private photos. The paper threatened to publish private photos unless Bezos commanded that his media outlet, The Washington Post, back down from its heavy coverage of the murder of reporter Jamal Khashoggi. The National Enquirer is owned by a company called AMI. Bezos alleges that AMI has strong financial ties to the Saudi Arabian Government.



Julia Sachs is a former Managing Editor at Grit Daily. She covers technology, social media and disinformation. She is based in Utah and before the pandemic she liked to travel.

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