For most of 2013, ABC, NBC and Fox, the three co-owners of Hulu, have been trying to sell off the popular online television streaming service. But the former CEO of ABC's partner company believes that one key offering that separates it from Netflix and Amazon Prime may disappear once a sale is made.
On Wednesday, former Disney CEO Michael Eisner revealed to Bloomberg TV that Hulu, when sold, may not retain its rights to next-day broadcasts of popular TV shows provided by the three networks that currently own it. That could spell trouble for viewers and Hulu's new owners alike, as Hulu's next-day broadcasts are currently a large part of Hulu's identity.
Like content providers Netflix and HBO Go, Hulu streams TV episodes on demand. But unlike Netflix and HBO Go, Hulu is ad-supported, and popular shows from ABC, NBC, Fox and other stations tend to show up on Hulu the day after airing.
Though most people aren't ready to replace their cable subscription with streaming services, Hulu's next-day access to hits like "Modern Family" and "Parks and Recreation" gives irate cable subscribers incentive to cut the cord without worrying about waiting for some of their favorite shows.
Eisner believes Hulu's owners won't sell the next-day rights to TV shows when they sell the service -- which means Hulu may lose one of some of its unique cachet.
"If [Hulu] is bought by a content-oriented production kind of company, it will then move from a company that is basically repeat broadcasting to original broadcasting. That is very expensive," Eisner told Bloomberg. "Therefore, the price you pay for the actual asset has to be tempered by what you need to spend to make that asset work, because NBC and Fox and ABC are not gonna give you a great deal on their own content."
UPDATE: Hulu's owners, 21st Century Fox, NBCUniversal, and The Walt Disney Company have decided not to sell Hulu, the companies announced Friday. In addition, these companies are going to provide Hulu with $750 million to aid in Hulu's continued growth.