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Comcast’s NBCUniversal is taking a more active role on the Hulu board.
The media conglomerate, which owns a 30 percent stake in Hulu, has named Universal Filmed Entertainment chairman Jeff Shell, advertising and client partnerships chairman Linda Yaccarino and content distribution chairman Matt Bond to the joint venture’s board of directors, sources familiar with the decision tell The Hollywood Reporter.
NBCU was one of the founding members of Hulu when it launched as a web video platform in 2008, but the company was required to give up its board seats and become a passive owner as a stipulation of its sale to Comcast in 2011. That Department of Justice provision expired at the end of August, giving NBCU the ability to add three of its executives to the Hulu board.
With Shell, Yaccarino and Bond, NBCU now has the same number of board members as its Hulu co-owners, Disney and Fox. Disney’s directors are Kevin Mayer, Ben Sherwood and Bruce Rosenblum, while Fox’s board members are Peter Rice, Dana Walden and Brian Sullivan. Hulu CEO Randy Freer also serves on the board, a role he also held while an executive at Fox.
NBCU is becoming a more active owner at a pivotal moment for the streamer, which has seen unprecedented growth over the last year to 20 million subscribers on the heels of breakout drama The Handmaid’s Tale. Hulu, which nabbed 27 Emmy nominations this year, has been in the process of bulking on up prestige TV fare, including upcoming projects from Beau Willimon (The First), George Clooney (Catch-22) and Reese Witherspoon (Little Fires Everywhere). Meanwhile, its year-and-a-half-old live TV bundle passed 800,000 subscribers earlier this year.
But the company is poised for further change as it awaits the completion of Disney’s acquisition of the 21st Century Fox assets, which includes Fox’s 30 percent stake in Hulu. That will give Disney a 60 percent ownership stake in the streaming business. (WarnerMedia also owns 10 percent of Hulu.)
Shell, who oversees Universal Pictures, Fandango and DreamWorks Animation, will bring a more robust film knowledge to the board at Hulu, which despite dabbling in some documentaries has remained focused on television in recent years. The longtime NBCU executive also has years of experience overseeing the television business. Yaccarino will join Walden as the board’s second female director, in addition to providing her rich television advertising experience, which is key given Hulu’s commitment to offering an ad-supported subscription offering. Bond, meanwhile, oversees the group that strikes NBCU’s distribution agreements with on-demand and live providers like Hulu and is familiar with the inner workings of the new multiplatform landscape for television networks.
Hulu currently has an expansive licensing deal with NBCU, which includes on-demand episodes of classics such as 30 Rock and Parenthood, shared rights to current shows including This Is Us and the live feed from several NBC networks.
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