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The daily business briefing: April 16, 2019

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Harold Maass
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1.

AT&T sells its stake in Hulu

Hulu said Monday that AT&T had sold its 9.5 percent stake in the video streaming service for $1.43 billion, leaving Disney and Comcast as Hulu's only remaining owners. The deal valued the company at $15 billion. Disney owns a 60 percent share after acquiring Fox's stake when it bought 21st Century Fox. Some analysts have speculated that Comcast will sell, too, leaving Disney as sole owner. That could result in a greater focus on Disney films and TV shows, and allow Disney to bundle Hulu with its new kid-focused streaming service, Disney+, and its sports service, ESPN+. Hulu's $6-a-month service lets subscribers stream TV shows after they air. [MarketWatch]

2.

Game of Thrones season 8 premiere sets a ratings record

HBO said Monday that the April 14 premiere of the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones attracted 17.4 million viewers, the most ever for the wildly popular show. The audience across HBO's platforms marked a jump of more than a million viewers compared to the season seven premiere, which had an audience of 16.1 million. The season seven finale in 2017 had 16.9 million viewers, the previous high mark for the series. The season 8 premiere is now HBO's biggest telecast ever, according to Entertainment Weekly, and the most-watched scripted show of the year, surpassing an episode of The Big Bang Theory that drew 14.1 million viewers. [Medium, Entertainment Weekly]

3.

Stocks fight for footing with earnings in focus

U.S. stock index futures continued to struggle for traction early Tuesday as investors awaited more earnings reports. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq were all down by 0.1 percent or less. Bank of America and Johnson & Johnson reported better-than-expected earnings before the bell. IBM, Netflix, and CSX will report later in the day. The three main indexes all edged down on Monday, by 0.1 percent or less, after a mixed batch of corporate results. Shares of Goldman Sachs dropped by more than 3 percent after the investment bank reported lower-than-expected revenues. [CNBC]

4.

Report: House subpoenas banks for information on Russia, Trump's finances

The House's Intelligence and Financial Services committees have issued subpoenas to Deutsche Bank and three other banks, looking for information on President Trump's finances and their deals with Russians, multiple people with knowledge of the matter told The New York Times on Monday. Over the last 20 years, Deutsche Bank has lent Trump more than $2 billion, despite his defaults and bankruptcies. Subpoenas were also sent to Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and Citigroup for records related to business conducted with suspected money launderers from Russia and other Eastern European countries, the Times reports. [The New York Times]

5.

Head of Taiwan's Foxconn mulls presidential bid

The head of Foxconn Technology Group, Terry Gou, said Monday he was stepping back from daily operations at the company as he considers a run for Taiwan's presidency. Gou said he would decide "in a day or two" whether to launch a campaign, adding that if he ran it would be in the primary of the opposition Nationalist Party, which favors closer ties with China. The 2020 field is expected to be crowded, and President Tsai Ing-wen of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party plans to seek a second four-year term. Foxconn, the world's largest electronics supplier, provides components for Apple, Google, and Amazon, and has vowed to build a massive factory in Wisconsin. [The Associated Press]