The Justice Department demanded Comcast give up management rights to the digital video service, rights it shares with its two other major partners, News Corp. and Walt Disney Co.
Comcast executives say this isn't too much of a concern right now -- of all NBC businesses, this is the one they know the least about, according to a press call with executives on Tuesday,
The DOJ's concerns are that Comcast, as a manager, could restrict programming/products: "Comcast must relinquish its management rights in Hulu, an OVD," according to a Justice Dept. release. "Without such a remedy, Comcast could, through its seats on Hulu's board of directors, interfere with the management of Hulu, and, in particular, the development of products that compete with Comcast's video service. Comcast also must continue to make NBCU content available to Hulu that is comparable to the programming Hulu obtains from Disney and News Corp."
Still, Comcast retains its financial stake -- about a third of the business. In essence, the new Hulu deal put Comcast in a minority ownership position.
Perhaps Comcast execs, in the back of their minds, believes this digital video destination -- albeit a successful and growing brand -- may not be the be-all, end-all of the new digital world. Things change quickly in the digital space. Remember when MySpace was the big thing when it came to social networking?
In looking at a "TV Everywhere" world where Comcast believes consumers will need to pay for content to make it available in several other areas/platforms/devices, the next big wave of TV content ownership looks to be more of a "cloud" type service, rather than a single destination point.
Where does this put Disney and News Corp. with Hulu? Possibly in a better position. Seemingly two partners might make for an easier future -- especially when dealing with a sometimes-complicated advertising inventory supply that has some media executives scratching their heads.
This isn't the final word, however. Many of the Federal restrictions -- either from FCC or the DOJ -- are limited at most to seven years.
See you in 2018 or so.