Hulu considers sale, but who’s the bidder?


Updated. Hulu has been approached by a potential buyer and is now contemplating whether it should sell, the Wall Street Journal (s nws) reported Tuesday afternoon. The paper reported that Hulu’s board is now considering whether it should enter negotiations or solicit bids from other prospective buyers. There’s no word yet on who made the offer, other than a tweet from CNBC (s cmcsa) (s ge) correspondent Julia Boorstin who said she has learned that “it’s not Google (s GOOG) who made the offer.”

So who is it? Here are a few candidates, and our take on it:

Microsoft. (s MSFT) The software giant has been working hard to turn its Xbox Live service into a platform for TV, so investing some money in content or licenses for content could make sense. However, Xbox users can already access Hulu, so there’s no immediate upside for Redmond in taking over Hulu.

Comcast. The cable giant has huge plans for TV Everywhere, and Hulu could make a much better authenticated platform than its howmegrown Xfinity platform. However, the conditions for the merger between NBC and Comcast specifically bar Comcast from exercising corporate control over Hulu. Any potential bid for the platform would be dead on arrival.

Netflix. (s NFLX) This would be juicy. However, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has long said that he doesn’t want to be in the day-after catchup business. Netflix has also always ruled out advertising and instead been comparing itself to subscription video service HBO.

News Corp. (s NWS) Now here’s a good one. Rupert Murdoch likes risky bets, and he’s been a big advocate of subscription-based businesses as of late. News Corp. already holds 27 percent of Hulu, which means that Murdoch could get Hulu cheaper than many others on this list.

Apple. (s AAPL) This is also an interesting bet. Apple’s recent iCloud launch — and the absence of any professional video component — showed the company has to play catch-up in the TV space. It must also irk Steve Jobs that the most successful service on its Apple TV is run by Microsoft board member Reed Hastings.

Amazon. (s AMZN) This would also make a lot of sense. Amazon has been using its own video subscription service to get people to buy more stuff with Prime Shipping, and it could do the same thing much more effectively with Hulu Plus. Also, combining Hulu’s and Amazon’s assets may just be the only way to challenge Netflix in the near term.

Yahoo. (s YHOO) Don’t discount the uncool outsiders. Yes, this would be a major commitment for Yahoo, but what does the company have to lose at this point? The same argument would also work for Sony.

Google. (s GOOg) Yeah I know. But sources can tell CNBC whatever they want, I wouldn’t rule Google out on this one. YouTube has been trying to get more professional content for a long time, and merging the two site’s catalog would accomplish just that.

No one. I know, this one seems like a cop-out. But there is always a reasonable chance that the entire talk about a possible acquisition has been overblown to benefit someone with stakes in the game, which could either be content negotiations Hulu is in or even the direction of the company itself. Hulu reportedly planed an IPO last year, but blew it off due to pressure from its owners. What if the buyout talk is just a way to deflect more meddling?

What’s your take on the story: Who wants to buy Hulu, and why? Let us know in the comments!

Update: The Los Angeles Times reports that Hulu received an unsolicited bid from Yahoo. (s YHOO) However, it’s not clear if this bid is the same one that the Wall Street Journal reported on earlier.



this is the first time i’m hearing hulu considers sale. i guess is apple but i doubt hulu will be sold. i am happy i can access Hulu even outside US with a VPN. Why does things have to change? a good US servers is all we need. i got one from this list of services:


Boy, let the bidding begin. The board will almost assuredly need to open a process unless this is an inside job….

Barrett Garese

If it’s Netflix, they’re buying the deals already in place, because that’s cheaper than going direct to the studios to renegotiate.

AOL would be interesting, as they’re spending money right now and trying to establish their identity in a post-portal world.

Lucian Armasu

If Google gets Hulu, they could get a lot more video advertisers on the Youtube platform as well. It seems like a pretty good fit for Google because of their experience with ads and because they want Google TV to succeed as well.


Perhaps it’s Criterion Capital Partners? They are attempting to purchase SeeSaw in the UK, which is effectively the same sort of service.

Andrew Mc

My first thought here was Apple due to the fact that these takeover attempts are rarely confidential once they leak. The leak is an obvious ploy to quickly drum up other interested parties to drive competition but would surely infuriate Apple. I also think the leak coming in after market hours suggest a public company. It seems awful trendy to go with an Apple pick but that is my guess here. M$ and Flix are my second and third guesses. M$ is certainly most likely to emerge as a competive bidder who has a history of paying up for assets (e.g., skype). My wildcard / left field guess would be Facebook who might want to blast into the content (aka ad) streaming business.

Andrew Mc

Another outside possibility is Dish who recently won the Blockbuster bankruptcy auction. I’m still going with Apple.


That’s what I was thinking, but Charlie’s not that smart.

Ryan Lawler

I think Dish only buys companies that have filed for bankruptcy.

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