Hulu Takes Itself Off the Auction Block

 

Hulu's months-long effort to find a buyer has been unsuccessful.

Owners of the popular company that lets users watch TV shows and movies on-demand via the Internet said late Thursday they have "terminated the sale process."

News Corp., Disney and Providence Equity Partners., along with Hulu senior management, issued a joint statement saying, in part, "Our focus now rests solely on ensuring that our efforts as owners contribute in a meaningful way to the exciting future that lies ahead for Hulu."

NBCUniversal, also a partner, was not mentioned in the statement, probably because it relinquished any management responsibilities it may have had as one of the conditions for governmental approval of its merger with Comcast.

Hulu announced a couple of months ago that it was initiating a bidding process and analysts had speculated the company might fetch from $2.5 billion-$3 billion, though Thursday's acknowledgment that the effort has been abandoned suggests that would-be buyers weren't willing to spend that much money.

Before Hulu attempted to find a buyer, it had also abandoned an effort to raise $300 million in an initial public offering that might have valued the company at $2 billion. Reportedly, though, bids from the likes of Amazon.com, Dish Network and Google were coming in at below that threshold.

Part of the problem, observers have said, is that bidders, naturally, were leery of buying a streaming-media company without guarantees they would have easy and inexpensive access to TV shows and movies once the content partners were out of the ownership picture.

"Since Hulu holds a unique and compelling strategic value to each of its owners, we have terminated the sale process and look forward to working together to continue mapping out its path to even greater success," the companies said in their joint statement Thursday.

Although Hulu has found it difficult to go public or sell itself at a value the partners would be happy with, the company is generally viewed as a success story. It collects $7.99 a month from 1 million Hulu Plus subscribers, and with its free version it attracts about 25 million unique viewers a month who spend about 206 minutes per month watching videos -- including targeted advertising that users cannot skip through.

The company has such potential that one influential Wall Street analyst has been blogging for months that Hulu’s owners should rethink their plan to sell the company.

“Media companies should be going out of their way to retain ownership of Hulu and allow it to flourish,” Richard Greenfield of BTIG wrote in August.  “The big media companies have all failed when it comes to digital. While it’s hard to pin down why they fail, even if they acquire or invest in the right assets, the DNA of traditional media companies seems to have a negative impact on virtually all digital initiatives. Hulu is the exception to that rule.”

 

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