Hulu Bidding Concludes, Reportedly Down to Three Suitors

The bidding process for Hulu concluded on Friday and the Los Angeles-based streaming media company has reportedly narrowed down the list of suitors to DirecTV, The Chernin Group and Guggenheim Digital Media. Previous offers had reached at least $1 billion, people familiar with the dealings said in May. Some reports suggest that DirecTV may be the likely frontrunner, since the satellite TV provider could have the most to gain.

“DirecTV faces flattening subscriber growth. And unlike cable competitors such as fellow bidder Time Warner Cable, it lacks a broadband offering to pick up the slack. It also lacks the wireless strategy of Dish Network,” notes The Wall Street Journal. “Buying Hulu could help DirecTV expand its U.S. subscriber base, currently 20 million, by 4 million. That assumes that Hulu Plus subscribers don’t pay for TV.”

“That could help DirecTV in negotiations with broadcast networks over fees it pays to carry their signals,” adds WSJ. “DirecTV’s scale could also help Hulu negotiate more favorable contracts and fund more exclusive deals and original content — all necessary to compete against rivals like Netflix.”

Also in the running is The Chernin Group. Led by former News Corp. president Peter Chernin, the company reportedly submitted a joint bid with AT&T. “In April, his Santa Monica, California-based firm offered at least $830 million for the website, including the assumption of $330 million in debt, people with knowledge of the matter said at the time,” reports Bloomberg. “Last month, Chernin Group joined with AT&T, which operates the pay-TV service U-verse, to work on a bid.”

The Hollywood Reporter offers a unique breakdown on how Hulu would benefit each of the potential new owners:

“With DirecTV service available nationwide, Hulu is a better fit with the deep-pocketed satellite provider of television than it would be with a more localized cable service, like Time Warner Cable, which also had courted Hulu, says Steve Birenberg of Northlake Capital Management… And analyst Richard Greenfield says that DirecTV could use Hulu ‘to build the best TV everywhere app,’ thus gaining a bargaining chip in future retransmission and programming negotiations.”

“If Hulu’s current owners, all of whom license content for Internet streaming, sell to Guggenheim, it could establish for all of Hollywood a new content buyer that would provide increased competition to Netflix and Amazon.com and possibly drive up the value of content… Some observers say Hulu could best retain its entrepreneurial spirit if it goes to a company like Guggenheim, which isn’t encumbered by legacy relationships. The lack of a significant corporate bureaucracy likely makes it more attractive to Hulu’s top executives.”

“Chernin is well liked in Hollywood and has existing relationships with many content players, and he also has a bit of an inside-track advantage in the overall auction for Hulu, given he is a former board member who helped create the company in 2007… AT&T could use the video site as its own TV everywhere platform. And AT&T, as the provider of the U-verse television service and and broadband services to homes nationwide, brings not only more cash to the deal but also the potential for much wider distribution for Hulu.”