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  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 correspondent Julia Boorstin who said she has learned that “it’s not Google who made the offer.”

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

Microsoft.  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.  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.  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.  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.  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.  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.  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. However, it’s not clear if this bid is the same one that the Wall Street Journal reported on earlier.


Comments have been disabled for this post