TV Distributors Looking For More Programming Control, Possibly With Some Big-Media Approval

DirecTV and Time Warner Cable are two traditional TV programming distributors kicking the tires at Hulu. These two add to the list of possible buyers -- a list that includes Amazon, Yahoo, Chernin Group and Guggenheim Partners.

The expectation is that Hulu will probably not be sold to a mainstream TV program creator (leaving Chernin Group, a network TV producer, out of the mix, for the moment).

Such a sale would give TV network owners like News Corp., Walt Disney, and Comcast at least some predictable business partners, companies with which it has ongoing distribution business deals.

With the sale, big TV companies can explore more freeing distribution deals with new digital platforms in the future. Hulu Plus -- increasingly the Netflix competitor, with 4 million monthly paying customers -- keeps growing. Not that Netflix is especially worried, what with Netflix having some 25 million subscribers. Still, you can wonder how networks will try and couch future discussions with Netflix -- especially Fox, Disney-ABC, and NBCUniversal -- as Hulu Plus keeps growing.



But this is not to say that big media companies will be pleased with new deals that might free the likes of DirecTV and Time Warner. Both have mulled the possibly of a legal Aereo-like Internet-delivered TV service where they wouldn't have to pay big media companies any retransmission fees -- saving millions of dollars, in theory.

In turn, should Aereo's over-the-top Internet-delivered TV service win the day, big networks will make a serious push to become full cable networks -- despite the fallout from possible legislation, and from leaving their affiliates left in TV limbo. At least that is what those networks have threatened.

DirecTV and Time Warner and others won't have to pay retransmission monies to the TV networks. But they will have to pay -- as broadcast networks become cable networks. And for many that would be better than the 50 cents a subscriber per month or so they are getting presently from cable, satellite, or telco, companies. In theory they could get more -- even considering slightly lower viewership.

All of which means a Hulu deal with one of TV networks' traditional distribution partners would make sense. And there's another benefit: Better the devil you know, versus the devil you don't.


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