Disney buys stake in YouTube rival Hulu

WASHINGTON, Chris Lefkow- The Walt Disney Co. on Thursday joined News Corp. and NBC Universal as a partner in online video website Hulu.com, a fast-growing rival to YouTube offering full-length television shows and movies.
Disney did not reveal the stake it had purchased in Hulu but The Wall Street Journal said it had bought a 30-percent share of the venture launched in 2007 by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and General Electric's NBC Universal.

The addition of Disney, which owns US TV network ABC, to the Hulu lineup is seen as a major coup for the online video venture, giving Hulu shows from three of the four major US broadcast networks -- NBC, News Corp.'s Fox and now ABC.
The other major US broadcast player, CBS, distributes its shows on its own online video portal, TV.com, which it purchased last year, and through Apple's iTunes.
Hulu passed Yahoo! in March to become the number three online video site in the United States with a 2.6 percent share of the videos watched online during the month, according to figures from online research firm comScore.
YouTube earned a dominant 41-percent share of the videos watched online in the United States in March followed by MySpace with 3.0 percent.
YouTube may still be the runaway number one, but TechCrunch blogger Erick Schonfeld said the Google-owned site should be concerned by the rise of Hulu, which like YouTube offers ad-supported shows for free.
"Hulu is becoming the preferred distribution channel for the big media companies," Schonfeld said. "This should worry YouTube, which is still casting about for a business model that will pay for its enormous storage and bandwidth costs."
YouTube earlier this month announced partnerships with Sony Pictures and other Hollywood studios as part of its effort to bring more professional content to the site known mainly for its user-contributed amateur videos.
Disney said Walt Disney Studios movies and full-length television shows from ABC would be available on Hulu including hit series such as "Lost," "Desperate Housewives," "Grey's Anatomy" and "Ugly Betty."
Programming from successful Disney-owned sports network ESPN is not part of the Hulu deal, however.
US entertainment companies have adopted a generally cautious approach to the Internet but Disney president and chief executive Robert Iger said times were changing.
"Disney has sought to meet the constantly evolving viewing habits of our consumers, and today's Hulu announcement is the next important step in that ongoing journey," Iger said in a statement.
"Hulu has shown that, if you make quality content available on the web and combine it with an unbeatable user experience, viewers will come, and so will advertisers," said Jeff Zucker, president and chief executive of NBC Universal.
News Corp. president Peter Chernin said "Hulu, quite simply, now has the best premium content on the Web."
Disney said it would have three seats on the board of directors of Hulu, which is also backed by private equity firm Providence Equity Partners.
Hulu can currently only be viewed by Internet users in the United States but plans to eventually expand worldwide.
Besides NBC and Fox and now Disney, Hulu offers programming from Comedy Central, Lionsgate, Metro Goldwyn Mayer, MTV Networks, National Geographic, Paramount, PBS, Sony Pictures Television, and Warner Bros. Television Group.
YouTube offers movies and television programs from BBC Worldwide, CBS, Discovery Networks, Lionsgate, Metro Goldwyn Mayer, National Geographic, PBS, Sony's Crackle, Starz and others.
Disney shares gained 4.24 percent on Wall Street on Thursday to close at 21.90 dollars.

Friday, May 1st 2009
Chris Lefkow

New comment:

News | Politics | Features | Arts | Entertainment | Society | Sport

At a glance