Peter Kafka

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CBS, Warner Bros. Sell “Gossip Girl” Again — This Time to Hulu

CBS and Time Warner’s Warner Bros., who just did a large rerun deal with Netflix for their CW network shows, have sold the same programming again. This time the buyer is Hulu, who is paying for the rights to show the stuff, soon after it airs on free TV, for the next five years.

It’s important to note upfront that Hulu is paying cash for the programming. While the video site — a joint venture between Disney, News Corp., Comcast and Providence Equity — has discussed bringing in another equity partner, that’s not happening with this particular deal.

I don’t have a price estimate for the deal so far, except that it’s going to be significantly less than the value of the Netflix deal — pegged at perhaps $1 billion (maybe more! maybe less) over an eight-to-12-year period — signed earlier this month.

That’s because Hulu will only have access to a year’s worth of content at any given time, while Netflix will eventually have multiple years’ worth of shows available for its subscribers.

Things to note on a Friday afternoon:

    • Hulu’s core value is that it aggregates primetime broadcast shows from its three corporate owners: Disney’s ABC, News Corp.’s Fox and Comcast’s NBC (News Corp. also owns this Web site). But CEO Jason Kilar has pushed hard to expand the site’s appeal beyond programming from that trio. Until now his biggest non-network deal has been a Viacom pact for Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report.” This one could be bigger, simply because it’s three years longer.
    • The fact that Hulu has announced any deal at all is interesting given the flux surrounding the site. Until recently, its owners had it on the block, and now that it’s no longer for sale, the next step is to figure out who’s staying and who’s going — both in terms of owners and management.
    • While the deal means more content for Hulu visitors, it’s also another part of the Great Free TV Web Pullback of 2011. That’s because unless you’re paying for Hulu Plus, you’ll have to wait eight days after the shows air to watch them online. You can debate the TV guys’ logic here — in short, they think that holding stuff back increases its value, even though lots of people assume it will make it much more likely to be pirated — but this is increasingly going to be the norm.

THE CW AND HULU SIGN FIVE-YEAR LICENSING AGREEMENT FOR CURRENT SEASON PROGRAMMING In-Season Episodes of The CW’s Drama and Reality Series To Stream on Hulu and Hulu Plus

(October 28, 2011) –The CW Television Network, a joint venture of CBS Corporation and Warner Bros. Entertainment, announced today a five-year licensing agreement with Hulu for the rights to stream in-season episodes of The CW’s programming on the Hulu Plus subscription service and the free, ad-supported Hulu service.

With this agreement, Hulu Plus will be the only online subscription service to carry in-season episodes of The CW’s drama and reality series, with the five most recent episodes of each show available to subscribers the next day after broadcast. Users of the free, ad-supported Hulu service will be able to watch five episodes of current season programming eight days after airing on The CW.

Available later this year, programming on Hulu and Hulu Plus will begin with the nine series on The CW’s Fall 2011 schedule, including new series “Ringer,” “Hart of Dixie” and “The Secret Circle,” as well as returning hits “The Vampire Diaries,” “Gossip Girl,” “Supernatural,” “Nikita,” “90210” and “America’s Next Top Model.”

“Our new arrangement with Hulu only affirms the incredible value of The CW’s series, as well as amplifying the immense power of the broadcast network model,” said Mark Pedowitz, President, The CW. “As we increase the amount of year round original programming on The CW, this deal provides our shows with greater exposure on a new platform, helping build even more awareness that will drive viewers back to the network and its affiliates. We see this as a win for everyone involved, the network, the stations, Hulu and ultimately, the viewers.”

“The CW programming is a great example of the kind of in-season content we want to make available on our service – high-quality, engaging, serialized shows that fans passionately love,” said Andy Forssell, SVP of Content for Hulu. “Making these shows available on Hulu and Hulu Plus will allow new and existing fans to get their fix of The CW’s great shows anytime and anywhere.”

The new agreement with Hulu delivers more ways for viewers to catch up with The CW’s serialized dramas and reality series, and provides the network with valuable off-air promotion and marketing to grow its brand, as well as increase awareness for its series. The CW’s content can also be made available online through authenticated cable providers.

The CW, which last year introduced an innovative digital convergence strategy for broadcast and online ad sales, will continue to present its programming on with a full complement of advertising, prior to streaming on the free Hulu service.

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