From Deadline|London editor Tim Adler: TV experts I’ve spoken to say it’s too early to dismiss Hulu’s chances in Britain – despite ITV now joining Channel 4 and Five rejecting any exclusive tie-up with the platform. Although News Corp is a Hulu shareholder, Hulu’s ad-funded model doesn’t sit well with pay-TV broadcaster BSkyB either. All this has left some wondering who might partner with Hulu over here as the online TV website owned by Disney/ABC, NBC and News Corp/Fox tries to tie UK broadcasters into exclusive relationships.
Consultant Claire Enders of Enders Analysis says that Hulu’s now in a position like Sky TV was in its early days. It will have to rely on US shows to drive traffic. “If they don’t get enough UK partners, it’s going to be difficult to get off the ground,” Enders tells me. “On the other hand, I can’t believe that their entire business plan was based on doing a deal with ITV.”
Julia Glotz, senior TV analyst at Informa, says, “Hulu has lost any kind of first-mover advantage. It will face quite a challenge distinguishing itself from other aggregators such as MSN Video or SeeSaw. They need to find a compelling logic to get British viewers to come to their site.”
Ben McOwen Wilson, ITV’s online director, told the Guardian’s Changing Media Summit that ITV would instead be trying to spread its ITV Player across as many platforms as possible. Because the UK is a much more consolidated market than America, McOwen Wilson said, there’s no need for US-style content aggregators. It’s an open secret that the old ITV management, led by Michael Grade, was negotiating with Hulu. The US platform offered an equity stake in exchange for exclusivity. “Hulu is a major success in the U.S. but the UK TV market is a different place,” McOwen Wilson said.
Five and Channel 4 have signed non-exclusive deals with aggregators such as YouTube and TV.com for their output. But if Hulu’s talked-about pay-TV component in the States comes to Britain, then this could tempt Sky onto the platform, says Glotz. Hulu was unavailable for comment.