• Hulu Sale Process Has Become One Big Leak-a-thon

    Late last week when Bloomberg reported that Apple is "considering making a bid" for Hulu, it inevitably ignited a series of follow-on articles and tweets from other outlets, amplifying the perception of seriousness. How meaningful "considering making a bid" actually is nobody but the insiders really know. However, the Apple "news" underscored how the process of selling Hulu has become one big leak-a-thon, with bankers and others involved with the process continuously leaking selective nuggets of information to major media outlets as unnamed sources, no doubt with an eye to shaping how the sale process plays itself out.

    In fact, even the decision to sell Hulu has never been officially acknowledged by Hulu itself; rather, the LA Times reported that bankers had been retained. That news was preceded by leaks that Yahoo had approached Hulu about an acquisition, that Hulu was considering selling itself, and that Fox, one of Hulu's owners and key content suppliers had renewed its license deal. In the month since these tidbits were released, there have been numerous other leaks, which I have listed below with links, noting the anonymous references each article cites (apologies to any I may have missed).

    Add it all up and it's been an unusual process to say the least. It seems that the only official indication that Hulu is even for sale and that it may happen came from one of its owners' CEOs, Disney's Bob Iger, who said that Hulu's owners are "committed to selling" it. As for Hulu itself, its only public communications have been an upbeat Q2 status report and a handful of product-related blog posts.

    As I originally wrote, I believe selling Hulu is no trivial exercise, given the limited content distribution rights and shifting landscape. After Google, which is probably the most strategic and willing buyer, but which would face real challenges getting the deal done, all other prospective bidders would have major reservations. That may be why Hulu itself has remained quiet, opting instead to have anonymous leaks keeping the public updated. While it remains to be seen whether there's a successful outcome to the sale process, based on the past month's leaks, we can all expect to be kept well-informed along the way.

    June 21 - Yahoo approached Hulu about possible acquisition "according to a person with knowledge of the matter" (LA Times)

    June 22 - Hulu considering selling itself "according to people familiar with the matter" (WSJ)

    June 22 - Fox renews its license deal "according to sources" (Variety)

    June 23 - Hulu retained investment bankers, Morgan Stanley and Guggenheim Partners "according to people familiar with the matter who declined to be identified" (LA Times)

    June 24 - Disney renews its license with Hulu - "according to two people with knowledge of the situation" (Bloomberg)

    July 1 - Google in preliminary talks to buy Hulu - "people familiar with the situation" (LA Times)

    July 10 - Netflix not interested in bidding - "according to people familiar with the matter" (WSJ)

    July 19 - Yahoo willing to pay up to $2 billion - "a source familiar with Yahoo's M&A plans" (Business Insider)

    July 19 - Microsoft drops out of bidding - "according to a person with knowledge of the matter," "who wasn't authorized to talk publicly" (Bloomberg)

    July 21 - Hulu's owners offering 2-year program exclusivity with 5-year guaranteed access - "two people with knowledge of the situation" (Bloomberg)

    July 22 - Apple considering making a bid - "two people with knowledge of the auction" (Bloomberg)