This has been a busy week for Hulu bids. Ten days after Bob Iger confirmed that the current Hulu owners (which include Disney, NBC Universal, Fox and a private equity group), Bloomberg reported that Hulu was looking to entice bidders by promising 5 years of content rights to programming from its current owners and a two-year exclusivity deal (with the exception being the networks own websites). In that same article, Bloomberg discussed the number of companies currently in talks to buy Hulu, mentioning Microsoft, Google and Yahoo by name.
Today, the Wall Street Journal adds Apple’s name to the mix. Frankly, of the four, I think Microsoft would actually make the most sense — go with me here, it’s not about Microsoft as a Windows company, it’s Microsoft who owns Xbox 360 and has already discussed its ability to turn that into the set-top box of the future.
Still, I think a Yahoo deal is untennable, I don’t think that Yahoo has the capital to make a good bid. Google, well, Google has a fundamental misunderstanding of content and content ownership. Look at the failures of creating a real Google Music store. Look at how YouTube has flailed with enticing commercial partners, despite having such a large distribution platform. I know we’re all in love with the big G on Google+, but Google fails so hard at the entertainment and set-top box space (Google TV is maybe one of the most shitty products I’ve ever had the displeasure of using, sorry Google, it’s true. It sucks.), it would kill Hulu dead in the water. Not as much as Yahoo would, but still.
But Apple, Apple is interesting. If Apple were to buy Hulu, obviously they would have yet another distribution platform. The thing is, Hulu, and TV Everywhere and subscription streaming as an idea, fundamentally goes against Apple’s approach to content. Apple sells content a la carte, not because it makes money that way (it really doesn’t), but because that content sells devices like the iPhone, iPad and iPod.
In the subscription streaming place, indeed, in the TV Everywhere space, the iPad is the number one most coveted target. Full stop. That’s why Hulu was on the iPad and iPhone first. Same with Netflix. Same with most cable company apps, same with second screen apps. The iPad is having a huge impact on the way consumers watch TV. It’s insane. Moreover, the engagement with the iPad, even with the same services available elsewhere, is higher and better, which makes advertisers love it.
Why then, would Apple need Hulu? They already have a Hulu app in their App Store. Other than as a defensive move, I don’t see why Apple would buy the company. Plus, something tells me that a deal would include a provision that the new owner has to continue to support the growing number of Hulu Plus devices. That’s something Apple doesn’t like doing.
Still, I’d rather see Apple own it than Google, because Apple at least knows how to work with content companies.
What I don’t understand is why we haven’t heard anything from Netflix. Netflix would be the perfect owner. It would increase the library size and get access to previous-day content. Netflix’s biggest hurdle is in fresh content. Hulu’s biggest strength is fresh content. Win/Win.
I just fear that whoever does buy Hulu won’t know how to keep it running well. Hulu has singlehandedly forced the major media conglomerates into the 21st century and to lose it would be a huge step backward.
Edited to Add: Amazon actually is the buyer that makes the most sense and is the buyer I would most like to see. Amazon gets content, Amazon gets making deals, Amazon gets how VOD works. It would be a great way to expand the Amazon Video on Demand model and offer additional incentives for subscribers or Amazon Prime members.
3 people have left comments
Lauren Fisher said:
I can’t see Apple buying Hulu here, I think it’s too much of a stretch from how they distribute content, plus were they to offer a service like this, I think it would be indigenous to Apple. What I’d like to know is why Facebook weren’t in the mix?! To me it seems like the perfect partner and they have a ready-made distribution platform there. Now they’re busy with Netflix, but it looks like a missed opportunity.
Grey Hodge said:
One reason Netflix might not be in the running is they seem to be happy being a “back catalog” to use their own words. They don’t want to become Hulu, according to their press statements. I, however, think that’s just a polite face until they land current-content deals. This is supported by the fact they’re producing their OWN content now.
The chances of Amazon participating in this are close to zero. Although your arguments for are true the big problem is that Amazon is already going to lose money through Q3 this year and justifying another acquisition to the market while it’s continuing businesses are doing so poorly will be difficult