John Paczkowski

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Finally: Disney, Hulu Deal Announced

mickeysgalaTook ’em long enough.

Just as MediaMemo predicted, Walt Disney Co. has finally taken a stake in Hulu, the video-streaming site operated by General Electric’s (GE) NBC Universal, News Corp. (NWS) and Providence Equity Partners. Under the terms of the deal announced today, Disney will sign on as a joint partner in the venture and bring full-length episodes of long-absent programs like “Lost” and “Grey’s Anatomy” to Hulu. Financial terms and the structure of the deal weren’t disclosed, but sources say Disney’s stake in the venture will be close to 30 27 percent.

“From our landmark iTunes deal to our pioneering decision to stream ad supported shows on our ABC.com player, Disney has sought to meet the constantly evolving viewing habits of our consumers, and today’s Hulu announcement is the next important step in that ongoing journey,” Disney CEO Bob Iger bloviated. “Disney and Hulu share a focus on delivering the highest-quality entertainment experience and we look forward to working with Hulu to build value for our consumers, our brands and our shareholders.”

A few points worth noting here before the full press release below. This is mostly a broadcast deal. Aside from a smattering of Disney Channel shows, it includes very little cable programming. There is, for example, nothing from ESPN. Presumably, that’s because Disney doesn’t want to upset the folks who actually pay to watch that stuff.

Disney’s decision to join Hulu shows the company is confident that the site’s audience is distinct enough from audiences served by cable, ABC.com and its other sites that there’s no real risk of cannibalizing them. And that runs contrary to what many networks assume about online.

Disappointingly, there’s no mention in the release of classic animation, whether shorts or features.

As MediaMemo has noted, this is a big deal for Hulu, which has now allied with three of the four big broadcast networks.

CBS (CBS) is now the sole holdout among big program providers. When asked about its position, a spokesman replied with this statement: “CBS has long employed open, non-exclusive content partnerships that allow fans across the internet to engage with our programming in such a way that we control our distribution, sales and profit. We continue to discuss similar arrangements with additional partners as we grow our online audience based on the strength of our content, and the passion of the communities it creates. The Company also believes that controlling our own rights for that content–in all media–preserves its value in a multi-platform business system.”

Disney (DIS) to Join NBC Universal, News Corporation and Providence Equity Partners as an Equity Owner of Hulu

LOS ANGELES–Hulu and The Walt Disney Company today announced that Disney, through a subsidiary of ABC Enterprises Inc., has agreed to join NBC Universal, News Corporation and Providence Equity Partners as a joint venture partner and equity owner of Hulu, a leading online aggregator of video content. Upon closing, the agreement will enhance Hulu’s programming line-up through the expanded online distribution of Disney’s most popular current and library primetime series and library feature films. In particular, full-length episodes of hit current and library programs like Lost, Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, Private Practice, Ugly Betty, Scrubs, Greek, Hope and Faith, Less Than Perfect, Wizards of Waverly Place, Phineas and Ferb, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, General Hospital, The View and The Secret Life of the American Teenager will soon be streamed on Hulu on an ad-supported basis.

“From our landmark iTunes deal to our pioneering decision to stream ad supported shows on our ABC.com player, Disney has sought to meet the constantly evolving viewing habits of our consumers, and today’s Hulu announcement is the next important step in that ongoing journey,” said Robert A. Iger, president and CEO, The Walt Disney Company. “Disney and Hulu share a focus on delivering the highest-quality entertainment experience and we look forward to working with Hulu to build value for our consumers, our brands and our shareholders.”

“We’re honored to welcome the Disney team in our mission to help people find and enjoy the world’s premium content, when, where and how they want it,” said Jason Kilar, CEO of Hulu. “With the addition of shows like Lost, Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy and many more to Hulu, we continue to aspire to deliver a service that users, advertisers and content owners unabashedly love.”

Following the closing, content available to Hulu users will include:

  • Full-length episodes of ABC primetime programs like Lost, Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty, Samantha Who?, Scrubs, Private Practice and popular late night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live
  • Full-length episodes of hit ABC Family series like The Secret Life of the American Teenager and Greek
  • Popular series from ABC Daytime and SOAPnet like General Hospital and The View
  • Classic series from ABC’s library like Hope and Faith, Less Than Perfect, Commander in Chief, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and Dancing with the Stars
  • Select hit programs from Disney Channel like Wizards of Waverly Place and Phineas and Ferb which can be easily accessed from a new DISNEY location in the Channel section of Hulu.com
  • Popular library titles from The Walt Disney Studios
  • Short-form content including webisodes, sneak peeks and episode recaps from ABC Entertainment, ABC Family and SOAPnet
    • “Hulu, quite simply, now has the best premium content on the web,” said Peter Chernin, president and COO, News Corporation. “With three major networks and over 150 leading content providers providing content, combined with the best video user interface anywhere on the web, Hulu offers consumers the finest premium online video experience available today.”

      “Hulu has shown that if you make quality content available on the web and combine it with an unbeatable user experience, viewers will come, and so will advertisers,” said Jeff Zucker, president and CEO, NBC Universal. “The addition of some of the best content Disney/ABC has to offer will only enhance Hulu’s standing as a top site for high quality video entertainment.”

      Jonathan M. Nelson, CEO of Providence, said “Hulu is creating significant value for users, advertisers and content owners. This balance, together with aggregated professional content and an expanding base of over 200 brand advertisers, is establishing Hulu as a compelling online video monetization platform. Hulu is a bright spot in the new media landscape.”

      The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory review. As an equity partner, Disney will have three seats on the Hulu Board that will be held by Mr. Iger; Anne Sweeney, co-chair, Disney Media Networks and president, Disney/ABC Television Group; and Kevin Mayer, executive vice president, Corporate Strategy, Business Development & Technology. All other current directors from News Corp, NBC Universal and Providence will remain on the Hulu board.


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