UPDATE 6 PM: Deadline has learned that Hulu is back up for sale and the bidding process is quietly underway again. Sources close to Peter Chernin confirm that he has bid $500M for Hulu but is not talking about it. Presumably, The Chernin Group (now with $200M backing from Providence Equity Partners) is bidding on less of Hulu than Dish and Google were back in 2011 when the sellers wanted $2 billion for the whole enchilada. Remember that October 13th, Hulu owners abruptly called off the sale. News Corp, Providence Equity Partners, Walt Disney Company, and the Hulu senior management team issued a joint statement that it would ”work together to continue mapping out its path to even greater success”. What went wrong was one problem particularly difficult to overcome: an inability to agree on the scope of the programming they were willing to offer someone buying Hulu. This was especially true for advertising-supported VOD, the kind of service that Hulu offers now. Hulu simply wasn’t worth much if the sellers wouldn’t throw in exclusive rights to stream popular first-run shows. Disney was more open to offering hit programming than News Corp was. (Comcast had to give up its vote at Hulu to win federal approval for its acquisition of NBCUniversal.) As far as the actual bidding back then, Dish Network was willing to bargain but offered less than the $2B that the sellers wanted. Google was willing to pay a lot more, only if it included lots of exclusive programming guarantees. Hulu’s current main backers collect a lot of cash from cable channels — and therefore have a lot at stake in the ability of cable and satellite companies to roll out ‘TV Everywhere’ services. The concept is that pay TV providers will offer the ability to watch first-run shows on demand on smartphones and tablets without extra cost – as long as it’s to subscribers. If Hulu has compelling ad-supported content available for free, then consumers would have an incentive to cut the cable TV cord. Programmers don’t have to think hard about that choice.
PREVIOUS 4:40 PM: Peter Chernin of course helped create Hulu back in 2007. Now Reuters is reporting the former News Corp #2 turned media mogul made the $500M bid recently fn behalf of The Chernin Group, whose holdings span film/TV production and stakes in high-tech companies including Pandora. Hulu is owned by ABC’s Disney and Fox’s News Corp (after NBCU’s Comcast gave up its Hulu say to comply with federal regulators) and has 3+ million subscribers for its premium offering and generated revenue of about $700M last year. Hulu’s future continues up in the air after it stopped its sale in 2011 and contemplated an IPO in 2010.
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