Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Peter Chernin Wants Hulu, Too

Peter Chernin at AsiaDAdd another former News Corp. executive to the list of people interested in buying Hulu: Peter Chernin, News Corp.’s former chief operating officer, wants the video site.

Multiple sources say Chernin, via his Chernin Group holding company, has made a formal bid for the site, which is owned by Disney, Comcast and News Corp. (News Corp. also owns this site).

Reuters, which first reported Chernin’s interest in Hulu, says he offered $500 million for the site; two years ago, when Hulu’s owners put the site on the block, they were looking for $2 billion.

A source familiar with the bid says Reuters’ $500 million number is low. In any case, it’s likely to be the starting point for a negotiation, which would hinge on the licensing rights News Corp., Disney and Comcast would provide for the money-losing site, as well as what happens to the $300 million debt its owners have taken on in the last year. (UPDATE: Here’s a bit more clarity: Someone else familiar with the bid suggests that Chernin’s initial bid is for Hulu, along with a limited set of rights to programming from its three owners, but says that the bid could increase if those rights increased. That makes more sense.)

That is, if its owners decide to sell it. Though Hulu’s owners are talking to other would-be buyers, including Ross Levinsohn, the former News Corp. executive who once managed the site, News Corp. and Disney are still discussing scenarios where one or both companies hang on to the site (co-owner Comcast gave up its management rights to the site as a concession to federal regulators a few years ago).

If Chernin ended up with Hulu, it’d be an excellent full-circle story, if nothing else. During his News Corp. tenure, Chernin was one of the site’s primary architects and boosters; many people think that his departure from News Corp. was a huge blow for former Hulu CEO Jason Kilar.

Also interesting: Chernin has a big slug of funding from Providence Equity Partners, Hulu’s initial investor, which sold its stake in Hulu last year. If Chernin ended up buying the site, Providence would essentially end up as a Hulu backer again.

Chernin has also mused in the past about what it would take to create an online competitor to HBO, starting from scratch. Perhaps a well-known video property could help him jump start those plans.

Here’s a highlight reel of a chat I had with Chernin at our Asia:D conference in Hong Kong in 2011; we spent some of that time talking about Hulu’s past and then-present.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik