The Hulu rumor mill churns on. Friday marked the deadline for would-be buyers to submit bids for the over-the-top TV service but, even with the reported departure of one big contender, it’s hard to say who will close the sale — or if a sale will occur at all.
In the latest twist, All Things D reports that private-equity firm Silver Lake has folded its cards, leaving DirecTV, Guggenheim Partners, Time Warner Cable(s twc) and AT&T as the leading candidates. A recent report cited sources who claimed DirecTV would seal the deal by the end of June but, in retrospect, that may have just been posturing by one of the parties in the long-running negotiations.
As it stands, the Hulu sales process is weighed down by conflicting strategic interests and complicated licensing issues. Specifically, Hulu’s current owners — News Corp, Disney(s dis) and Comcast (s cmcsa)– all supply the daily shows that are the lifeblood of Hulu, but are conflicted about how to make them available to an outside buyer, including whether a subscription or advertising model is best.
As in the past, Hulu’s current owners and potential buyers remain hung up on content licensing terms. The difficulty lies in the fact that Hulu’s sale value depends entirely on how much content the new owner will be able to take out the door — and for how long. On one hand, the broadcasters don’t want to hand out long term content deals because that would undercut their ability to shop their shows to the likes of Amazon(s amzn) and Netflix(s nflx); a potential owner, meanwhile, doesn’t want to own a platform that will run out of content in the near future. (The plot thickens further if you consider AT&T’s interest in leveraging data plans).
The bottom line is that yet another phase in the long -running “sale” of Hulu has come to and end — but it’s unlikely this deadline will bring about a sale any quicker than previous ones did.