Word is spreading that Hulu has received a buyout offer and is taking it seriously. The Wall Street Journal’s hearing the same thing according to a report on its web site that sources “people familiar with the matter.” Although details including the name of the potential buyer haven’t surfaced, executives who track Hulu closely warn that a deal could be tricky to negotiate. The company depends on TV shows from Disney, News Corp and Comcast’s NBCUniversal, which also own most of the equity along with Providence Equity Partners. The Justice Department and FCC required Comcast to give up the Hulu board seats, but continue providing it with programming, as a condition for approving the NBCU acquisition in January.
But Hulu’s owners may be willing to back away from the venture, which CEO Jason Kilar has said was profitable last year with revenues of about $260 million. People who want to stream videos from broadband are flocking to Netflix, not its $8-a-month rival Hulu Plus. Last year, Hulu scrapped its plans to go public, in part because the owners couldn’t agree on its strategy. Outsiders say that lots of companies might be interested in Hulu, with Amazon, Google and News Corp considered among the most logical candidates. Google has begun to talk to Hollywood studios about a plan to spend about $100 million on original entertainment for a collection of channels it wants to create on YouTube.