I will give you all the information available at present. You decide if it is a sweet deal or a sour lemon. Deal? Alright, if you've just come out of a binge-induced coma and don't know what the heck I'm talking about, Hulu has dropped their IPO thoughts and moved on to thinking about selling themselves, good, bad or otherwise.
Now I've been writing about them for some time but only recently, upon my return to the US, was able to partake in the online video services offering. I have to say, I was far from impressed by the selection and the fact that they only offer like five episodes or an episode for such a stupidly short period of time was frustrating since there was some stuff that I needed to catch up on and all that made it impossible to do there, at Hulu. So to me, the content is like a hodge podge of hastily thrown together, second-rate content. It's like, the graveyard for canceled or soon to be canceled shows. I hope I'm wrong because I'm still catching up on Chicago Code there. Oh right and The Event, so like I said, shows that are or will be canceled. My queue, after being gone from the US for 6 years remember, is only 37 items long and at least five of them are things I never heard about but piqued my interest.
The Hulu Package
Ha! I'm talking about their package! No, I'm talking about them as a package you pervs. Here's the deal.
The Content (A plus... and a minus)
Two of the partners (Disney/ABC and FOX) have extended licenses for content on the site. So that means a new owner needn't worry about rehashing those deals right off the bat, at least until 2013 one might imagine. NBCU hasn't and could pull their content at any time, but it seems unlikely. They don't have a say in the day-to-day anymore for the company because of the terrible merger with Comcast was was pushed through the FCC by a woman who then took a high-paying upper level executive role with the firm...strange right?
I know I said I was just going to give you facts, but I like to present them in an entertaining and thought provoking way. Honestly, a week or two after she pushes the deal through she [Meredith Attwell Baker] gets a Sr. VP level gig with them. Can you all say kickback?
Sorry, back to the content. In the recent contract discussions, the networks determined that shows would goose step to Hulu in a much slower fashion because for some reason the partners feel they were losing revenue? It seems that way as the one day delay will turn to one week (unless you're a cable subscriber...see the evil influence of ComCast now?) in what seems like a violation of that Comcast/NBCU hands off stipulation. Perhaps the person who took over Meredith Attwell Baker's old position should investigate that further.
So while the content is promised to be there, it will be there later and the new rules are directly aimed at cord-cutters to prevent them from accessing the content.
Finally, it's not exactly exclusive. All of them reserve the right to stream the content on their own online presences. I imagine that new delay in the content hitting Hulu is so that they can show on their own sites anyway.
Killer CEO Kilar (Plus/Minus?)
Jason Kilar is all for a sale. Then again, the new owner might not be all for Kilar. Personally, I like him, he's got chutzpah, and that's a word I like to use, so he's cool in my book. Plus, he's been a bit vocal about what he (and I) see as a mishandling of Hulu and a stifling of its innovation and potential. At least that's what I read into his statements, didn't you?
Now is he a plus or minus. I think that if an open-minded buyer (*cough*Netflix*cough*) were to pick them up, he would prove a valuable asset and ally so I'll call him a plus. Of course his contract has just about run its course and so he'll likely be dismissed and maybe the partners will put it on auto-pilot if they're serious about selling. Why go through all the hassle right?
If the right buyer came along and scooped up Hulu and liked Kilar's ideas and was like-minded perhaps he might be necessary for the deal to seal. I know it's putting a lot of value on a single person, but he has done fairly well, considering that the owners have been roadblocking him left and right.
The Users (Plus/Plus)
Unfortunately, for the rest of us Internet video consumers, Hulu users have proven they are willing to pay and still see ads. Personally, that seems greedy to me. Show ad-supported content, fine. But if it's a premium service, I don't want ads. It could still be the downfall of the world's largest Internet video ad outlet if you ask me. I don't know of any other place with comparable content that has you pay a premium and then still shows you a pile of ads. Hopefully, the new owners will realize that.
There is an audience there, I agree. We want to be able to see a TV show online, on our own schedule. We want to be able to catch up (which we won't be able to do soon according to the information above) and we generally don't want to plow through loads of crap (the Blockbuster Maze, you know, pass through all the mediocre, old, dusty crap in the middle to get to the new releases in the back) to get to the new, good stuff. Netflix has a new interface that I hate. Hulu's is still pretty good and you can get around without having that crap foisted upon you. So good for Hulu in that respect. Don't push stuff on the users, let the users find their own content, they're obviously there to watch something. If they're there to just browse, then stick your suggestions in front of them.
The Candidates (Neither nor)
Who is it that is interested? Well, no one right now. Or at least there have been no real hard offers. Some people have pointed at Microsoft and Yahoo. I think Microsoft could certainly use it as a gateway to get more video content directly streaming onto the Xbox 360 which is doing extremely well in terms of subscribers.
Yahoo! - I don't know that they are forward-thinking enough to handle the company properly or really see the true value. Of course, they would definitely have the ads to push onto the network. But they haven't really managed their previous video presences all that well.
AOL - The newly rejuvenated Video Division has been doing well to generate its own content. It would be a big boost to them if they could instantly have a place that comes stockpiled with its own TV content, users and system. It might even raise the interest in some of that other content that AOL Video is working on.
Netflix - It would be the ultimate marriage, one that I believe the partners in Hulu would vehemently oppose, even though most of them deal with Netflix at some level already. If there is ever 'one ring to rule them all,' that ring belongs to Netflix an so should the Hulu hoop (heh, get it?!).
Sony - They are absolutely not in a buying position at present. Hammering down a $3B loss, some top level restructuring and possibly more legal fallout from the Playstation Network hack, no, definitely should not even be window shopping right now.
Samsung - Oh hell yeah! I could totally see them pulling this down and building it straight into their Smart TV, Galaxy Tabs and Galaxy Smartphones. If you read my stuff often you know I think the world of them and this could help solidify that plan they have to show content across their whole network.
Google - I don't know that they even need to be interested in buying. Of course, if they did, they could take GooLu and plug it into GooTube and then they'd have YouluTube and all the premium content they have been talking about offering through the world's second largest search engine, I mean world's largest online video site.
Amazon - Buy, sell, rent. Amazon already does it all, physical media, streaming, yep and yep. So why wouldn't it cast a wisftul gaze in the direction of Hulu? It could help bolster Amazon Prime which is like, 95% Blockbuster Maze already. Plus, they've got a CDN so massive they rent it out to other people already, so why not use it to pop off another zero or three to their bottom line by pumping Hulu content through it?
Apple - Just to take a sharp stick and poke a lot of people in the eye. That's the reason I think Apple would try to buy Hulu. But again, I think the partners would try to block that because they still fear the iTunes effect of price fixing, like they did with music. Then again, it would really help Apple TV, wouldn't it?
Others that could do something useful with it but I don't know have the intestinal fortitude or deep enough pockets: Best Buy (as part of Cinema Now), Wal-Mart (to combine it with VUDU).
Hmmm, did I miss anyone?
Personally I'll be saddened if someone buys it. I've written so many article about Hulu these last couple years, I feel like I would be losing a dear old friend. Then again, if it doesn't get rolled into another service, it might just be like that dear old friend got a sex change, but is still my dear old friend.