Commentary

New Report from Wieser Predicts Hulu Will Have a Healthy Payday

 In the warp speed at which all things online churn, the folks like me who want to see a beginning, middle and an end to a story in the same day are getting a tiddly-taddly impatient. The story of who will buy Hulu is taking too long. “Hurry up with my damn croissants!” as my good friend Kanye West would say.

I’m not quite sure, really, why News Corp. and the Walt Disney Co. are so intent on selling Hulu. It is a pretty nicely positioned piece of online real estate that, with a little tender care, could benefit from the near mania aura surrounding online pay service Netflix these days and the sure steady drift of content to online video.

Selling it to  DirecTV or another pay-TV distributor would be a bad move, says analyst Rich Greenfield of BTIG, who thinks either Fox and ABC should consider buying out one or the other and buying the third part owned by Comcast, which in return for government permission to buy NBC Universal basically agreed not to have much to do with Hulu.  But Greenfield also thinks that won’t happen.

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A new intriguing report from Brian Wieser, senior research analyst at Pivotal Research Group, lays out some interesting scenarios and concludes the question won’t be how low the price will go for Hulu but how high it might reach.

The Pivotal report doesn’t seem to favor one suitor over another, but in my reading at least, Yahoo, which has bid a low $600 million (reportedly) would be a mighty fine fit as CEO Marissa Mayer tries to reinvent that brand.

If (probably) she raised her bid.

 Based on a couple practical assumptions, Wieser surmises  Hulu might have revenues of $300 million from domestic online video advertising, money that otherwise would go to display ads like Yahoo sells. “Given this observation,” the report says, “if Yahoo controlled Hulu it might better drive advertiser goals across conventional display and video platforms.”  

The Pivotal report has a scenario that would make the acquisition good for others—it’s obviously synergistic for Time Warner Cable and DirecTV, the two other suitors the Pivotal report targets with specificity. But it’s bad, too. Wieser’s report notes Hulu works with a kind of start-up mentality that might not mesh well with DirecTV, and definitely not with Time Warner Cable.

But there are advantages to linking to those two more entrenched video companies.  The analysis  ponders just what Hulu could become if a new owner plunked down the bucks to produce content that would create “a ‘House of Cards’ moment” for Hulu.

“The math involved in deploying $100 million or even $50 million to a content producer to develop a ‘hit’ seems unduly risky given Hulu's small subscriber base at present,” the report says. But a well-heeled buyer, Wieser concludes, might take that chance.

Something could/should happen soon. Maybe the end of this week. Where are those damn croissants?

pj@mediapost.com

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