Now Time Warner is looking into buying part of Hulu

Time Warner reportedly considering taking an equity stake in the online-video site

Financial trends and news by Steven Loeb
May 16, 2013
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(Updated to reflect comment from Hulu)

Hulu is a hot property these days. The company recently revealed that it had set a new record for revenue in the first quarter of the year, that subscribers to Hulu Plus have doubled in a year, hitting 400 million in the quarter and that, for the first time ever, Hulu viewers streamed more than 1 billion content videos in a single quarter.

With numbers like that, it's no wonder there has been a huge wave of new interest in companies who want to get their hands on a piece of Hulu.

The newest company to jump into the fray is Time Warner Cable, which is considering taking an equity stake in the online-video site, according to a report from Bloomberg Thursday.

No deal is in place, and discussions are at an early stage, sources said. If Time Warner were to buy into the company, it would become the fourth owner, along with Walt Disney CompanyNews Corp and Comcast.

For Time Warner, there are clear benefits to buying Hulu. First, it could be offered as part of a bundled service. It also allows Time Warner to get a foothold into the broadband business, as that is the future of television.

It would also allow the cable company to grow its user base, and increase ad revenue.

Time Warner will, of course have some heavy competition for the site. Others that have been reportedly showing interest in the site include Former News Corp. COO Peter Chernin; Guggenheim Partners, which is led by former Yahoo interim CEO Ross Levinsohn; and Amazon.

It was most recently reported that Yahoo was also showing interesting, with CEO Marissa Mayer and top executives at Hulu having already begun meeting and talking to each other about a possible acquisition. No formal bid was made, though.

Yahoo's desire to expand its video capabilities is well known. The company was recently in deep talks to purchase online video website Dailymotion, even going so far as to even sign a provisional deal to buy control of the online-video website from France Télécom SA.

Yahoo was set to purchase up to 75% of the company, which is valued at $300 million, but the deal was scuttled by the French government, when it stepped in and attempted to renegotiate the terms of the deal, offering Yahoo a chance to buy a stake in the company without having majority control, an offer which Yahoo declined. 

So Hulu became Yahoo's second choice.

Hulu had previously put itself up for sale in June 2011, after clashes between the owners and management over how to run the site. In October, though, the sale was called off and the owners vowed to focus on growing the service instead.

That plan seems to have worked, and now they might just get what they wanted all along. 

A Hulu spokesperson declined to comment on the report.

Time Warner could not be reached for comment.

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