Summary:

Hulu Japan is being acquired by the local broadcast giant Nippon TV. The acquistion effectively puts an end to Hulu’s international ambitions.

Hulu Japan homepage
photo: Hulu

Hulu Japan is being acquired by the local broadcast giant Nippon TV. Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins announced the move in a blog post, which read in part:

“From the beginning of our conversations, it was clear that Nippon TV understands the value of the first-of-its-kind service the Hulu team has built in Japan—we are very proud to have created a service that the local broadcast leader in Japan sees as a strong asset. I know that Nippon TV will be able to take Hulu in Japan to the next level.”

Hopkins said that the service had grown to a size where a sale to a strategic buyer made sense. Terms of the acquisition were not announced. Nippon TV will continue to run the service under the Hulu brand, and Hulu will provide the company with Western content as well as services.

Hulu launched Hulu Japan as its first international offspring in 2011, positioning it as a pure premium service without any free, ad-based component. Hulu never released any numbers about its Japanese subscriber base, but an early price adjustment indicated that it was off to a slower-than-expected start. Both companies said in a press release Thursday that Hulu Japan’s subscriber base doubled in 2013.

Hulu initially planned to the Japanese model to additional markets, and for years tried to strike alliances in Europe. But Hulu’s international ambitions were met with skepticism from its owners, News Corp., Disney and Comcast. Hulu SVP Johannes Larcher, tasked with the international expansion, left the company last summer.

On Thursday, Hopkins left little doubt that the sale of Hulu Japan marks the end of his company’s international aspirations:

“I’m confident that the Hulu business in Japan is in very good hands, and Nippon TV will take the service to new heights, with the added benefit of allowing us to focus on our growing business here in the U.S.”

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