The notion of a Hulu IPO has been hovering from the start, periodically picking up more or less steam. The latest burst comes from Reuters (NYSE: TRI), which admits the joint venture between News Corp. (NSDQ: NWS), Disney (NYSE: DIS) and NBC Universal (NYSE: GE) may not even go that route. And if it does, the amount it would try to raise may be less than you’d expect — and the valuation might be more than some think it’s worth.
Reuters’ unidentified sources put the amount for a possible IPO between $200-$300 million based on a valuation of about $2 billion. For a little context, Hulu launched in 2007 with a valuation of $1 billion thanks to a $100 million investment by Providence Equity Partners for 10 percent of the equity. (Our headline then referred to a possible IPO.)
The conventional wisdom for a possible IPO was that it could be the best way for the equity holders to get a return on investment. Now that’s mixed with a suggestion that Hulu needs cash to compete with Netflix, which has been opening the virtual checkbook to amp up the amount and currency of content it can offer online. Hulu’s biggest advantage so far is that its Hulu Plus premium subscription, still in soft launch, is the only (legit) way to get full seasons of current ABC, NBC and Fox prime-time shows online and through various devices.
But money for new content — if that’s a goal — doesn’t require an IPO. Hulu’s equity partners easily could pony up that much between them if they want and that possibility is still on the table. They also could sell some equity privately — and retain the company’s ability to fly under the SEC radar unlike Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX).