Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Hulu Isn’t for Sale — Yet. But Buyers Are Asking …

hulu-alec-baldwin380Two years ago, Hulu’s corporate owners put the video site up for sale — and then took it off the block.

New version of a similar story: Hulu’s corporate owners still aren’t sure what they want to do with the site. But they are starting to hear from would-be buyers, anyway.

One of those potential purchasers is Ross Levinsohn, who worked hard to buy Hulu when he was running Yahoo in 2011.

Now Levinsohn is working for Guggenheim Partners, the $160 billion fund manager that owns the Los Angeles Dodgers and media assets like the Hollywood Reporter, and industry sources say he has talked about buying the site again.

Other companies that have kicked tires — or indicated an interest in kicking tires — include Yahoo and Amazon, sources say.

No prospective buyer has made anything like a formal offer, though. And no one can buy anything until Hulu owners Disney and News Corp. (News Corp. also owns this Web site) figure out a plan for the video hub.

They’ve been trying to do that for a couple years, and in the interim there have been some significant changes at the site. Last year early backer Providence Equity Partners sold its stake, and in January CEO Jason Kilar announced his plan to depart.

But Disney and News Corp. still haven’t agreed on whether the site should focus on an ad-supported model or a subscription one, and while both have talked about buying out the other partner, those discussions are still “fluid,” according to people familiar with the negotiations. (Comcast’s NBCUniversal also owns a stake in the site, but gave up its management role a few years ago in a concession to federal regulators.)

And just like 2011, the key issue for any Hulu buyer would be the content licenses Disney and News Corp. are willing to extend to an outsider.

In the past, the two companies were unwilling to offer long-term deals for their content, which meant anyone who bought Hulu was really buying a Web site and a chance to renegotiate for new content deals in a couple years — that is, they weren’t buying much.

Maybe that will change when and if Disney and News Corp. resolve their differences. If not, hard to see anyone buying the site this time around, either.

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— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle