If sold, Hulu could take a turn for the worse [updated]

Credit: Source: Hulu Plus

[Update: It looks like this storm has blown over. Engadget shared a press release from 21st Century Fox, NBCUniversal and The Walt Disney Company stating that the three companies would retain ownership of Hulu and in fact will be providing the service with a $750 million cash infusion. So it looks like the Hulu we know and love is here to stay, at least for now.]

Sorry to end the week on a down note, but I've got some potentially bad news for fans of Hulu. As you probably know, Hulu has been trying to sell itself for some time. Scuttlebutt is that currently three companies are in the running: Direct TV, a partnership between AT&T and media exec Peter Chernin, and Time Warner Cable (more details at AllThingsD).

So here's the problem. A lot of the appeal of Hulu, as compared to Netflix or Amazon Prime Streaming, is that network TV shows appear on Hulu just a day or so after airing. But if Hulu gets sold, that could go away.

Former Disney CEO Michael Eisner talked about this on Bloomberg TV. Hulu's current owners are Comcast, Disney and News Corp and these companies give Hulu great deals on content licensing from NBC, ABC and FOX. But once they sell Hulu, they won't have any incentive to continue doing so.

That means that once sold, Hulu will probably become a lot more like Netflix or Amazon and will have to generate original content (Eisner name drops Netflix's House of Cards) to stand out, and that equates to big money. But that's more an issue for whomever purchases the service.

For you and me it means that, potentially at least, the Hulu we know and love will be going away, and we'll have just another service that gets access to a TV series well after its season ends.

The only silver linings here are that TWC wants to become a partner (which would probably mean the three current owners wouldn't change their licensing deals) and failing that, that ABC & Fox will give any eventual new owner two years of licensing rights for Hulu Plus, and five for the free version. So even if this sale goes through the service shouldn't change suddenly.

Speculation on my part, but if Hulu gets sold I expect we'll see ABC, FOX and NBC pushing out content through their own apps and websites, which I suppose is better than nothing.

You can read more about this situation at Bloomberg.

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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