As we reported earlier today, Disney has signed on to become part owner of Hulu. Posts immediately went up around the blog-o-sphere wondering what it all means. Sure it means something (check out Liz’s list of winners and losers in this deal), but it changes nothing. Well, it changes one thing — Hulu now has three media companies to answer to instead of two.
As the first part of this year demonstrated, Hulu is not the master of its own destiny. In January, at the behest of FX, Hulu pulled nearly all three seasons of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia from the site and issued the following apology on its blog (emphasis ours):
Despite Hulu’s opinion and position on such content removals (which we share liberally with all of our content partners), these things do happen and will continue to happen on the Hulu service with regards to some television series…
Unfortunately we do not have the permission to keep the specific episodes up on Hulu beyond that.
This was followed up in February by the infamous Boxee Rebellion (<-- catchy!), that saw Hulu remove its service from the media center platform that made watching its content on TV sets that much easier. From another Hulu blog post (emphasis ours):
Our content providers requested that we turn off access to our content via the Boxee product, and we are respecting their wishes. While we stubbornly believe in this brave new world of media convergence — bumps and all — we are also steadfast in our belief that the best way to achieve our ambitious, never-ending mission of making media easier for users is to work hand in hand with content owners. Without their content, none of what Hulu does would be possible, including providing you content via Hulu.com and our many distribution partner websites.
In both instances Hulu says, in effect, “Hey, if it was up to us, you could have whatever you want, but it’s these dang content partners…” And as it states so plainly: No content, no Hulu.
Now Hulu has one more partner it needs to keep happy. And if you think NBC and FOX are protective of their brands, imagine what the company that owns Mickey Mouse and Hannah Montana will require.