Hulu subscribers soar as CEO Freer plans departure

Hulu CEO Randy Freer is preparing to leave the company. (Hulu)

Hulu is reportedly on a subscriber growth hot streak just as CEO Randy Freer is preparing to leave the Disney-controlled streaming service.

According to Bloomberg, Hulu’s domestic subscriber growth found another gear in late 2019 thanks to being bundled with Disney’s ESPN+ and Disney+ streaming services. As a result, the service has grown twice as fast as Netflix in the U.S., and has “easily” surpassed 30 million subscribers.

In November, Disney said that Hulu had 29 million subscribers. In January, Disney began offering Hulu with Live TV and Hulu without ads as part of its streaming service bundle.

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MoffettNathanson said that Hulu with Live TV has also been growing significantly. Though it couldn’t yet provide a subscriber update, the analyst firm said that the virtual MVPD “crushed it” in the fourth quarter.

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Amid the reported strong growth for Hulu, Freer is preparing to leave as Disney looks to more closely align Hulu with its current direct-to-consumer strategy. According to Variety, Freer will remain in his role for a few weeks to assist with the transition. The publication also said that Hulu executives from across the company will now report to Kevin Mayer, who runs Disney’s direct-to-consumer and international business division.

The leadership shift at Hulu comes after last May Disney and Comcast reached an agreement to give Disney full operational control of the streaming service. Under the terms of the deal, Comcast as early as 2024 can require Disney to buy its 33% stake in Hulu, and Disney can require Comcast to sell that stake at a fair market value. Disney is guaranteeing a minimum total equity value of $27.5 billion for Hulu at that time.

Comcast has distanced itself from Hulu as it prepares to launch Peacock, its own ad-supported streaming service. Peacock will offer a free tier and a Premium service priced at $4.99/month or $9.99/month with no ads. The Premium service will be free for Comcast and Cox video subscribers along with Comcast’s Flex broadband customers.