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Is Hulu Backing Off From a UK Launch?

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Hulu is abandoning its plans for a launch in the UK — that’s the latest from the Telegraph on the U.S.-based online video site’s efforts to expand overseas. Despite spending more than a year in negotiations with UK broadcasters ITV, Channel 4 and Five to launch a local presence there, the Telegraph now reports that Hulu is finally ready to give up on the market.

The latest story follows a year-long effort by Hulu to line up exclusive content and advertising deals in the UK While Hulu has rapidly grown into the second-largest online video site in the U.S., with about a billion video views a month, the launch of a local, Hulu-branded service — which last summer was thought to be just weeks away, according to the Telegraph’s previous reporting — may not happen after all.

One senior TV exec had this to say about the breakdown of Hulu’s plans to enter the U.K. market:

“Hulu’s talks with ITV have come to a halt because the broadcaster wants to focus on growing its own catch up service – ITV Player and not syndicate its content out to a third party at the moment. Conversations with Channel 4 and Five have also not come to any fruition because Hulu wants to sell the advertising inventory around both broadcasters’ content – like it does with US content – and this is not something either broadcaster is willing to concede on. Hulu has told several people at the British broadcasters that it has been forced to abandon its UK expansion plans after failing to sign any content deals,” said a senior TV executive who has been close to the negotiations.

While Hulu has not been able to get the traction it wanted in the UK, other sites have emerged in its place. Seesaw, which sprung from the BBC’s unlaunched online video project, Kangaroo, launched with a fairly small catalog of content earlier this year. By striking licensing deals with the BBC, Channel 4 and Five — but not ITV — Seesaw went into beta with about 3,000 hours of content.

UK residents are also able to catch up on BBC content through the broadcaster’s iPlayer, which has increasingly gotten distribution on gaming consoles and other consumer electronics devices. While Hulu attempted to strike deals with UK broadcasters, the number of videos British residents watched via iPlayer doubled in 2009.

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