Hulu Feels as Though Sale Might be a Plus

Michael Teague  |

On Monday it was reported that the board of online streaming television and film service Hulu LLC was contacting various prospective buyers for a potential sale of the company.

While no decision has yet been made as to what will happen to the Los Angeles company, potential buyers so far include Guggenheim Partners LLC, who own the L.A. Dodgers baseball franchise.

Before calling off an attempted auction in October of 2011, the company had brought in bids from no less than Google (GOOG), Dish Network Corp (DISH), Yahoo Inc. (YHOO), and Amazon (AMZN).  The auction fell through for a complicated set of reasons that had to do with reservations on all sides of the deal, but mainly those of the two owners, Walt Disney Co. (DIS) and News Corp. (NWSA), who came to the conclusion that the company was more valuable in the end if were it not sold.

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While Comcast Corp. (CMCSA) also owns a stake in the company, it is Disney and News Corp. who still disagree over what direction the company should take, whether one should buy out the other, whether it should be sold, or whether a new business model is needed.

Amid all the indecision about what is to be done with the company, Hulu is putting up some of its best numbers yet in terms of revenue, which for 2012 was up 65 percent to $695 million.  This figure received a boost from the doubling of subscribers who paid the $8 per month for the Hulu Plus service that offers more shows as well as mobile devices.  These 3 million payers are less than one tenth of Netflix (NFLX) subscribers who total over 33 million, but Hulu is now also running in to competition from similar services such as Amazon and Redbox Instant, launched in tandem by Verizon (VZ) and Coinstar Inc. (CSTR).

Last October Hulu spent $200 million to buy out Providence Equity Partners’ 10 percent stake of the company.  During the auction process in 2011, the company was looking for a bid of at least $2 billion, while Dish reportedly offered $1.9 billion, and Google reportedly offered $4 billion.  With the drastic increase in the company’s popularity and revenue even in that short period of time, the offers are sure to be even greater.

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