Who’s Ready to Make a Play for Hulu?

The pros and cons of Yahoo, Netflix, Google, and more

Not everyone was convinced that Hulu—which just renewed a licensing deal with Fox—was really for sale when The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that a mystery buyer approached the company with an unsolicited offer. But whether or not that was true at the time, it is now. The New York Times says that Hulu’s board has hired Morgan Stanley and Guggenheim Partners as advisers on a potential sale.

So who might bid on the video streaming site? Forbes' Jeff Bercovici has ventured a few guesses.

According to The Los Angeles Times, Yahoo is supposedly the company that made the unsolicited offer. Because Yahoo lost its spot as the top seller of display advertising to Facebook, it could be considering the Hulu purchase to close the revenue gap, says Bercovici. (Although TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington thinks the Yahoo story was planted as part of a negotiating strategy.)

Google already owns the world’s largest video site, YouTube, and is looking to add more advertiser-friendly video content, so a Hulu acquisition would make sense for the search giant, says Bercovici. Plus, it could easily outbid everyone else. And of course, there’s always Apple. Not only does the company have $65 billion in cash to spend, but it has also had some experience with advertisers thanks to iAd.

Bercovici has some ideas as to who will probably stay out of the running, too. News Corp., Disney, and NBC Universal own Hulu along with Providence Equity Partners, but it’s doubtful that one of the media companies would buy out the other two, since none of them wants to hand over the site to a competitor. Netflix is also an unlikely suitor, he says, because “the entertainment industry’s already wary enough of Netflix as it is. If it gobbles up Hulu, too, the recent detente is history, and Netflix is back to being Public Enemy No. 1.”

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