Not For Sale: Hulu

The Walt Disney Co., News Corp. and Providence Equity Partners said in a prepared statement, “Since Hulu holds a unique and compelling strategic value to each of its owners, we have terminated the sale process and look forward to working together to continue mapping out its path to even greater success. Our focus now rests on ensuring that our efforts as owners contribute in a meaningful way to the exciting future that lies ahead for Hulu.”

Recent stories and analysis of the “auction” for Hulu pointed out that given the low bids received, combined with the likelihood of Hulu growing into a more robust subscription service, it could suggest that keeping Hulu and Hulu Plus may be the better solution. Certainly once the million subscriber benchmark was crossed, it seemed that the better strategy would be for the current owners to maintain control of Hulu.

Dish Network, Google and Amazon provided bids for the service, with Google submitting the greatest dollar amount but tying its offer to several conditions. Dish Network appeared to have the inside track to gaining Hulu with the next highest bid. The owners and experts both seemed surprised at the low dollar amounts bid. Indications were that the winner might be getting the Hulu service and content for approximately $2 billion.

The owners are going to keep it and maintain control of the “next day” distribution of ABC, NBC and Fox programming. Had the sale gone forward, relinquishing control of the content might have been a crippling error.

Apple Considers Hulu

Although the company declined to publicly comment, Apple is said to be in discussions concerning a possible bid for online video site Hulu. Last week, the owners of Hulu — Walt Disney Co., News Corp., Comcast and NBC Universal — confirmed that the ownership of Hulu was definitely in play.

A possible Hulu acquisition would provide Apple with a new subscription service featuring more video. Currently Apple provides video for it’s popular iTunes customers on an on-demand rental basis rather than a subscription.  Comcast, Disney and News Corp. have built a program rights extension of five years into the sale, creating a strong potential alternative to Netflix.

Estimates are that Hulu will command more than $2 billion.

For more, see this Bloomberg News article.

Fox, DISH, Cablevision: All Done for Now?

It seems the big news on retransmission after the “scary” weekend is that both Dish Network and Cablevision came to terms with Fox on retransmission and other content fee issues.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) offers up some congratulations to all for getting it settled, while pointing out that there is work that needs to be done to protect the consumer. Read more

Networks Block Google TV: The End of Free TV?

Are free episodes of popular television network programs going away? With Hulu Plus and other possible solutions, they just may be. The notion of “cutting the cord” and staying online for program content may just be a passing fad. ABC, NBC and CBS have made their content at TV.com and ABC.com unreachable by the Google browser, and, as a result, by Google TV.

The indication seems to be that ad-supported, free episodes may soon be a thing of the past. During the heat of the Fox/Cablevision dust-up on retransmission, Fox blocked Cablevision subscribers from accessing popular network programs such as Glee online. Although online access was restored within hours, this added fuel to the fire and may be the direction that the networks will take. Read more

Fox vs. Cablevision

Cablevision and Fox parent News Corp. are engaged in a very public and heated retransmission consent battle. Negotiators failed to reach an agreement yesterday evening, more than a day after their current deal expired. As a result, Fox has pulled its channels and programming while the two sides discuss how much Cablevision will pay to carry them. Talks are expected to resume this morning.

The FCC posted a consumer advisory on its website last night. The advisory reads, in part: “Cablevision and Fox had an agreement for Cablevision to carry WNYW, WWOR, and WTXF that expired at 11:59 pm EDT on October 15, 2010. They have been negotiating to renew that agreement, but failed to reach a new agreement before the deadline. As a result, Cablevision stopped carrying WNYW, WWOR, and WTXF. This dispute affects only Cablevision subscribers who wish to view programming on WNYW, WWOR, and WTXF. “

The commission notes, however, that Cablevision has also lost the signals for Fox cable networks including Fox Business, Fox Deportes and Nat Geo Wild. Read more

Fox vs. Dish Network

The reported re-negotiation breakdown is now firmly headed for a resolution unknown.

Fox has demanded that Dish Network remove FX, National Geographic Channel and 19 Regional Sports channels from the line-up. Dish Network is displaying information banners on the channel guide where the channel information for those channels used to be.

Dish is claiming that Fox is asking for exorbitant fees for the sports networks.

The NBA and NHL, both of whom have teams that license games to Fox Regional channels, are siding with Fox. Fox, the NBA and NHL are directing subscribers to competitors. Competitors are doing their level best to draw subscribers to them. Fox is apparently making the Fox-owned stations part of the issue as re-negotiating retransmission consent is also running short on time.

In a press release, Dish Network claims that Fox is demanding a 50% increase over current fees for the Regional Sports channels. Dish indicates that in these trying times, that kind of money is too much to ask their subscribers to pay. This is bound to get very ugly, very soon, or maybe not. Dish Network had a dispute earlier this year with Disney and dropped four HD channels. They aren’t back in the line-up yet.

There are editorials around the country indicating a desire for a la carte over the current bundling requirements placed on distributors like Dish Network. Perhaps a la carte is an option. Perhaps the cost has begun to outweigh the value.

Hulu Plans Subscription Service

The popular and trendy on-line video site Hulu has released information concerning a test of subscription service that is likely to begin near the end of May.

According to the subscription proposal; the plan calls for Hulu to continue offering  “free” access to the five most recent episodes of programs like Lost, Saturday Night Live, Grey’s Anatomy, Parenthood and Glee.  

Those who may want to “dig deeper” in time and look at older episodes from previous seasons would be required to pay a $9.95 monthly access fee.  This fee would allow the viewer to choose from a more complete catalog of program episodes.  The pay service is reported to be named “Hulu Plus.”

Hulu which is jointly owned by NBC Universal, New Corp and the Walt Disney Company is currently second in monthly video stream consumption to the number one ranked YouTube service. 

The subscription for Hulu is a major change in the way in which Hulu has been doing business over the past two years.  The Hulu owners are concerned that too much free access to content will dilute the value of on-line television in a manner similar to the music industry whose revenues dropped due to free access to songs on-line.