A Hulu IPO?

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Hulu, the premium video content website, may go public in a transaction that could value the company at over $2 billion, according to an exclusive report in The New York Times. It will certainly be a challenge to pull the deal off in a relatively soft stock market environment -- with an unproven business model. As the article says, "despite its status as a big player in online video, the company currently makes little in the way of profit."

Hulu is owned by News Corp. (NWS), Walt Disney (DIS), GE's (GE) NBC Universal and the private equity firm Providence Equity Partners.

According to Comscore, Hulu ranked second among all U.S. video sites in May with 1.17 billion videos viewed -- although its ranking is dwarfed by first place YouTube, which had 14.6 billion videos viewed for the same month. It may not be much of a comparison, but Google (GOOG) bought YouTube for $1.65 billion in October 2006. Video use on the Internet has increased sharply since then. And YouTube content is still made up mostly of short-form amateur video.

Hulu is about to add a $9.99 subscription service that will offer consumers access to program archives and special features. The service has been ad-supported until now. As Hulu transitions to a paid subscription model, it faces the same issue of many other sites: Will people pay for something they're used to getting for free?
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