What’s Hulu Worth Without Programming?

By | Wednesday June 22, 2011 @ 3:33pm PDT



So Hulu’s for sale -– it has hired investment banks to find a buyer. But what, exactly, would a purchaser receive? The answer could be not much — unless Hulu can cut long-term and preferably exclusive deals for TV shows and movies from its main program suppliers and equity owners News Corp, Disney, and Comcast’s NBCUniversal. The problem is that those deals will be hard to strike before a sale. That means anyone buying Hulu would need deep pockets to buy new programming –- or to compete with Netflix and possibly other online services for existing entertainment. “Hulu’s real competitors are the cable companies,” says media investor and author Larry Kramer.

A sale would show that the vision that led to the creation of Hulu in 2008 has been a bust. At the time, the broadcast networks wanted a slick destination to offer ad-supported TV shows online. It was their  best defense against seeing companies such as Apple and Google move in and dominate online video the way Apple has with online music. But ads haven’t materialized the way initial backers had hoped. Last year, the company created subscription service Hulu Plus. CEO Jason Kilar says more than 1 million customers will sign up for the $8-a-month product by year’s end.

Yet Hulu Plus is an also-ran against Netflix, which has 22.8 million domestic subscribers and is spending a fortune to license TV shows and movies. That’s one reason why it’s been so hard for Hulu’s existing owners to cut long-term deals with the company. They want Netflix’s cash. Disney CEO Bob Iger said last month that “we never believed that Hulu would end up … in an exclusive position as a distributor” for Disney’s entertainment. Read More »

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Upfronts: NBC Execs Say They’re Going Back To ‘Broadcasting 101′

NBC Broadcasting Chairman Ted Harbert made it clear that the company had entered the post-Jeff Zucker era with a zinger that the audience at the NBC Upfront Presentation fully understood. They applauded when he said that the company needs “a little … Read More »

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Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes: ‘Too Much Excitement’ About Premium VOD

Time Warner Jeff Bewkes comes across as the media world’s most laid-back CEO. But he asked a lot this morning when he told movie theater owners to cool their jets about Premium VOD. “There’s been too much excitement about this,” Bewkes said at a panel discussion sponsored by investment firm Jefferies & Co. “Our interests are aligned.” That will come as a surprise to the National Association of Theater Owners and its members who loathe PVOD as much as the Tea Party hates taxes. Exhibitors say many would-be ticket buyers will wait to watch films at home as studios including Warner Bros begin to offer 8-week-old releases on cable and satellite VOD services for about $30 a showing. Bewkes says theater owners are wrong: “I’m saying (box office revenue) doesn’t go down.” Everyone will suffer, he says, if the studios can’t provide an alternative to pirates who sell bootlegged copies of recent movies to people who don’t want to wait for the official home video release. Other panel members — none of them exhibitors — supported Bewkes. CBS chief Les Moonves said that although theater owners are scared, “you have to change a bit.” And Sony Corporation of America CFO Robert Wiesenthal said that “everybody is experimenting and being aggressive,” even though studios should recognize that theaters are “the foundation of the economic value chain for a feature film.” Read More »

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Comcast Will Spend $300M More This Year On NBC Primetime & Cable While Admitting Universal “Has To Make Better Films”

This morning, the top Comcast execs in an earnings conference call admitted to Wall Street that NBCUniversal, which the company just purchased, is a fixer-upper and, in the short term, a money pit. NBCU chief Steve Burke says the company plans to spend $200 million more this year on NBC’s primetime schedule than General Electric did last year when it owned the network. (Burke is looking at 21 pilots, about the same number NBC ordered in 2010.) Comcast considers the turnaround to be a long-term project, but Burke says that simply lifting NBC to third place from fourth would mean “hundreds of millions” in improvement in the company’s cash flow. Meanwhile, Burke also says he plans to spend $100 million more this year on programming NBCU’s cable networks. He expects a “very strong” upfront ad sales season.

As for Universal’s film business, where 1Q revenues and operating cash flow declined, Burke says that “we have to make better films,” although the size of its current slate is “about right.” He attributed some of the woes to the fact that the company had to include a lot of marketing costs for Hop and Fast Five in the latest quarterly report even though most of the revenues from those recently released films will show up on Comcast’s next earnings statement.

Both Burke and Roberts mentioned the “S” word — synergy — which hasn’t been used by Big Media since the days of AOL Time Warner. And we all know how that turned out. Read More »

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NBCUni’s Cable Division Run By Lauren Zalaznick Promotes Trio

By | Tuesday March 22, 2011 @ 8:41am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

A trio of senior NBC Universal executives for Lauren Zalaznick’s Women & Lifestyle Entertainment Networks have been given expanded responsibilities at the bigger group overseen by Zalaznick post-merger, NBCUniversal Entertainment & Digital Networks and Integrated Media. Cameron Blanchard, previously SVP of communications, and Tony Cardinale, previously SVP of … Read More »

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Private-equity Blackstone Group Wants Out of Universal Orlando

By | Wednesday March 16, 2011 @ 2:02pm PDT

A holding company that oversees the theme parks said in a regulatory filing this week that the private-equity group has offered to sell its 50% stake in the Florida parks to NBC Universal, which owns the rest of the venture. Comcast-owned NBCU has until June 12 to make a call … Read More »

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NCTA Chief Kyle McSlarrow Tapped As President Of Comcast/NBCU D.C.

By | Wednesday March 9, 2011 @ 1:58pm PST

PHILADELPHIA (March 9) — Comcast Corporation (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), today announced that Kyle McSlarrow will join the company in early April as President, Comcast/NBC Universal, Washington, D.C. Mr. McSlarrow will have dual responsibilities in business operations and public policy in Washington, D.C. On the operations side, Mr. McSlarrow will

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Post-Merger NBC Sports Group Unveils Executive Team

Nellie Andreeva

With Comcast’s acquisition of NBC Universal completed, the newly formed NBC Sports Group – which consists of NBC Sports, Golf Channel, VERSUS and 11 Comcast regional sports networks – this morning unveiled its executive structure under chairman Dick Ebersol. Turner veteran Mark Lazarus, who has long been rumored to take run the new group’s cable properties, is the only outsider on the team, while NBC Sports execs are being given the reins of Comcast’s Versus and Golf Channel. Here is a rundown of the new exec hierarchy: Read More »

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MERGER GIVEWAY: NBCU Employees Get Comcast Shares, Universal Studios Passes

Nellie Andreeva

Going to work this morning, NBC Universal employees found all the company’s old signs replaced overnight with new ones. They feature the company’s new logo and new name, which is the same as the old one sans a space between … Read More »

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UPDATE: Comcast-NBC Brass Talk Synergy, Layoffs & The Future At Town Hall Meetings

By | Thursday January 27, 2011 @ 9:40am PST
Nellie Andreeva

UPDATED: Comcast today held town hall meetings for NBC Universal employees in NBCU’s main outposts, New York and Los Angeles, and Comcast’s hometown Philadelphia, with remotes from Miami and London. Comcast officially unveiled the new logo for NBCUniversal (all one … Read More »

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Vivendi Sells Off Its Remaining NBCU Stake

By | Wednesday January 26, 2011 @ 8:01am PST

Vivendi has officially divested itself from NBC Universal, selling the remaining portion of its 20% stake in the company back to General Electric before the merger with Comcast is officially complete on Friday. The price: Vivendi received a total of $5.8 billion for the 20% stake. In a statement, Vivendi CEO … Read More »

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Jeff Zucker Excited About Time Off; Mum On His Future Plans, Keith Olbermann’s Ouster

Nellie Andreeva

Three years ago, in the middle of the writers strike, NBC Uni CEO Jeff Zucker made big headlines with his NATPE keynote speech, in which he declared the broadcast model dead and touted two new NBC initiatives that he thought … Read More »

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How Comcast Zeroed In On FCC’s Mignon Clyburn To Seal NBCU Deal

A Philadelphia Inquirer report recounts how the Comcast team locked in on FCC Democrat Mignon Clyburn, who joined the commission in 2009 and who was one of the five who eventually decided if Comcast should get NBC Universal. Comcast strategists studied the members of … Read More »

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John Miller Returns To Top Marketing Post At NBCU, Will Launch & Run NBC Sports Agency

By | Monday January 24, 2011 @ 10:11am PST
Nellie Andreeva

NBC Universal TV Group Chief Marketing Officer John Miller is joining NBCU’s sports division to create and head The NBC Sports Agency immediately following the pending acquisition of NBCU by Comcast. After 25 years of running marketing for NBC, Miller in June stepped down as president of The NBC … Read More »

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Jeff Zucker’s Farewell Note To NBCU Staff

Nellie Andreeva

It was a memo like any other released by a CEO of a public company on the day the company’s quarterly earnings report is out. But this morning’s message by outgoing NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker about the company’s … Read More »

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NBC-Universal Sees Stronger Q4 Results

While the Comcast-NBC Universal deal is supposed to close next week now that it has received FCC approval, NBCU’s fourth quarter revenue rose to $4.8 billion (up 12%), and profit saw a 38% gain to $830 million powered by a Big … Read More »

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More Reaction To FCC Ok Of Comcast-NBCU Deal

UPDATED: Here’s the WGA, West’s statement on the Comcast-NBCU merger, approved yesterday:

“After a thorough review of yesterday’s announcements by the FCC and DOJ, the WGAW disagrees with their decisions approving the Comcast-NBCU merger. Even with the conditions placed on the merger by the FCC and the DOJ, we believe this merger is anti-competitive and is not in the public interest or the interests of our members. The WGAW remains committed to joining with other organizations and individuals to continue the fight for an open Internet, independent production, and diversity of voices in all media.” 

Here’s yesterday’s WGA, East’s statement:

“The Writers Guild of America, East is disappointed by the FCC’s approval of the joint venture between Comcast and NBC Universal. We consistently have opposed this action because entertainment and news media already are too consolidated; too few multinational mega-corporations control what people watch on television and in movie theaters. The Comcast/NBCU deal is particularly frightening because it brings together one of the largest internet service and cable TV providers with one of the largest content providers.  Without strong and meaningful safeguards, the economics of the deal virtually mandate that Comcast/NBCU will discriminate in favor of its own content and leave writers and other independent members of the creative community out in the cold. This will impact not only entertainment programming but the diversity of news and public affairs voices so vital to a democracy.

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FCC Approves Comcast-NBCU Merger Deal

UPDATE: In a 4-1 vote, the FCC has approved Comcast’s merger with NBC Universal. Democrat commissioner Michael Copps cast the lone dissenting opinion, saying that ”it confers too much power in one company’s hands.” The deal should close by the end of January.

Of course, there are plenty of conditions set forth … Read More »

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Comcast: NBCU Deal Won’t Close This Year

Nellie Andreeva

Comcast today confirmed what observers had been predicting for awhile: that the merger with NBC Universal won’t be completed by the end of this year as Comcast had hoped because of a delay in the regulatory approval process.

“We believe the … Read More »

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