Here’s a deal that would reshape the online streaming business and set Netflix on its heels: Apple is “considering making a bid” for Hulu, Bloomberg reports today citing two people “with knowledge of the auction.” The story says that Steve Jobs’ company is “in early talks that may lead to an offer” which could come to more than $2B. But what’s just as interesting is that Disney, News Corp, and Comcast’s NBCUniversal are said to be telling all bidders that they’re prepared to continue providing programming to Hulu for five years — including two with exclusivity. Companies looking at Hulu have said that it would be hard to put a price tag on it without guaranteed programming. Now several are at least kicking the tires for the auction being run for Hulu by bankers Morgan Stanley and Guggenheim Partners. Yahoo is known to be interested. CEO Carol Bartz wouldn’t comment on Hulu when asked about it in a conference call with analysts on Tuesday. Amazon, Google, and Microsoft are also looking closely — although Bloomberg says that Microsoft’s interest is waning.
Insiders are telling Deadline that the Bloomberg report claiming final broadcast network holdout CBS is joining Hulu as soon as this fall on a non-exclusive basis are “overblown”. Yes, there are talks going on between CBS with Hulu which already includes NBC, Fox, and Disney. And, yes, Big Media loves to collude. And, yes, trading in CBS options surged 4-times the norm on the news. But my insider say CBS “definitely won’t join a free Hulu. Only Hulu ‘plus’ if it’s a good deal.” Said another insider, “we’ve been talking to them and continue to talk to them but there is nothing immediate happening.” Hulu also is in talks with Viacom and Time Warner for a paid subscription service.