Hulu up for sale; probably good news for users

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Hulu was all over the news yesterday. Let's recap what was talked about.

First of all, Hulu Plus, (the subscription version of the service) has finally arrived on Android phones. That's the good news, I suppose. The bad news is that, much like what happened when Netflix hit Android, only a few specific models of phone are supported. If you have a Nexus One, Nexus S, HTC Inspire 4G, Motorola Droid II, Motorola Droid X, or a Motorola Atrix, you're in luck. The rest of us, including all Android tablet owners, will have to wait. Hulu says it will add more phones and make "additional device announcements" in the months to come.

So should we blame Hulu and Netflix, or is this yet another sign of the problems with fragmentation of the Android platform?

Next up are further indications that Hulu is for sale. The LA Times reports that the company has retained investment banks Guggenheim Partners and Morgan Stanley to help them find a buyer. Hulu is jointly owned by Comcast Corp (via their merging with NBC), News Corp., Walt Disney, and Providence Equity. Yahoo is said to have expressed an interest, but not made a firm offer.

Out of all these "Is it for sale?" discussions have come some unhappy details for fans of the service. GigaOM has gathered up this information, which includes the news that Fox wants more ads inserted into the Hulu versions of shows like Glee and Family Guy. That's not awful news, but please let them get more diverse ads. The only thing worse than seeing lots of ads is seeing the same ad over and over and over.

Worse are the indications that free Hulu users will have to be a cable subscriber in order to watch shows the day after they air. Otherwise you'll have to wait eight days for episodes to appear on the service, or be sign up for the paid Hulu Plus service. So much for water cooler discussions between cable subscribers and Hulu users, eh?

Of course, the source that GigaOm quotes (another LA Times story) says that "Hulu's owners" are pushing for these new limitations. One quote makes it sound as if Hulu's execs don't agree with the proposed changes:

Meanwhile, the media executives who serve on Hulu's board clashed with the site's chief executive, Jason Kilar, over facets of the online service's operation, including how many ads to include in the TV episodes and how much to charge for the Hulu Plus subscription service.

"Hulu's interests have become diametrically opposed to the core business of its owners," said Arash Amel, research director for digital media for IHS Screen Digest. "Once Hulu is not owned by its content providers, it can be more innovative."

Innovative sounds good, and that quote makes me think that Hulu users should be hoping the company does get sold. If its new owners are customer focused rather than being worried about stepping on the toes of traditional media, Hulu could emerge as a richer service for all of us couch potatoes and laptop jockeys.

All that said, I'll admit I'm not a heavy Hulu user (I generally turn to it when I've missed an episode of a show on cable), so I'd love to get the opinion of someone who is. That's what the comment form is for!

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