What Does NBComcast Mean for Hulu and TV Everywhere?

The world awaits an outcome on the will-they-or-won’t-they nuptials that is cable giant Comcast and network/studio NBC Universal (negotiations will probably take a long time since Comcast presumably told GE to wait at their offices between the hours of noon and 5:00 p.m.), here are some outstanding questions worth asking:

What would this mean for Hulu?
NBC is co-owner of the premium content portal which has been a driving force in getting certain tech-savvy folks to cut their cable cord. At this point, the question is more flashy (since everyone hearts Hulu) than substantive. With Disney hopping on board the Hulu choo-choo earlier this year, the site has access to NBC content (including cable channels Bravo, SyFy and USA) for the next year and a half (roughly). That’s a lifetime in web time, so who knows what the role of Hulu will be then as technologies and content continue to evolve. Still, it would set Comcast in partial control of one of its “enemies.”

What about TV Everywhere?
Comcast went on a content partnering tear this summer, lining up a number of cable programmers for its On Demand Online flavor of viewer authentication, absent from that list are any NBCU properties. SyFy, however, is a partner in Time Warner Cable’s TV Everywhere trial. It’s an insult to no-brainers to say that NBC properties going to On Demand Online is a no-brainer.

The two questions are inextricably linked. With Comcast calling the shots, it would be a good bet that Hulu would wind up with the short end of the content stick. Comcast is not a big fan of paying cable programmers big fees and having those programmers put shows online for free. While we aren’t privy to the terms of the deal between NBC and Hulu, if Comcast can’t flat out yank NBC content from Hulu, it might have the ability to make content windows and restrictions so onerous as to make the Hulu experience suck, and make Comcast’s On Demand Online a virtual (and visual) shangri-la … as long as you’re a subscriber.


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