If Yahoo buys into Hulu, does the move for the long-time search, email and content provider put it back into the bigger Internet game?
Hulu would surely get some needed cash infusion -- hopefully to compete even more strongly with YouTube. At the same time, Yahoo would upgrade its profile and Internet-brand savvy, perhaps getting closer to Google-YouTube -- all by aligning itself with premium TV shows.
Then again, if Hulu moves to a mostly pay-TV site this could make for a more narrowly distributed video service, as well as putting itself more behind the pay lines under the Comcast and Time Warner-inspired "TV Everywhere" plans. Give Hulu its due, though: Building an Internet-only brand name video platform somewhat late in the streaming video platform wars has been a significant task.
Hulu is now looking at a possible $2 billion IPO. Yahoo probably isn't considering an outright purchase; some of the existing partners like NBC Universal, News Corp. and Walt Disney Co. probably aren't interested, given what they believe are possible future strong revenues from the still-growing digital TV platform.
The bigger issue is, where does it go from here? What happens to Hulu when more Internet video and TV program merging occurs? More than a number of analysts have commented that Hulu might just be a transitory business.
What can Yahoo bring to the table -- apart from big financial bucks -- to let Hulu make the next jump? Surely, search and social functions via Internet-enabled TV are a key function for many TV set manufacturers and software operators. For Yahoo, one of the immediate benefits could come from access to possible cross-selling of Hulu's prime TV advertising inventory -- should a Yahoo-Hulu investment include such a deal point.
More that some of its recent business-oriented moves -- its alignment with Microsoft, its purchase of Associated Content -- Yahoo could move front and center among consumers with a deal for Hulu. That alone may be enough to put it in position for its next big deal years down the line.