Last Call for Hulu

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There's one less gentleman caller on Hulu's front porch.

The Financial Times reported over the weekend that DirecTV (NAS: DTV) got booted from the pool of prospective acquirers of the streaming service after bidding too low.

The pool of possible buyers now includes Amazon.com (NAS: AMZN) , Yahoo! (NAS: YHOO) , and DISH Network (NAS: DISH) , all bidding in the $1.5 billion to $2 billion range, sources tell the paper.

That's a motley crew of couch-potato wannabes, but all three companies have their reasons for wanting in on the television-show streaming platform.

  • Amazon is trying to get its fledging streaming service off the ground. It now offers 8,000 titles at no additional cost to Prime members, but adding a fresh slate of television content will broaden its reach. If successful, Hulu will make it easier for Amazon to sell more piecemeal premium rentals and Prime subscriptions.
  • Yahoo! may have bigger fish to fry now that it has a CEO to find, but it needs a spark to counter its lethargic organic growth. Hulu won't immediately change that, but it will make the meandering dot-com more relevant.
  • DISH Network acquired Blockbuster earlier this year, and now Bloomberg is reporting that a Blockbuster-branded streaming service will launch next month. Hulu would create a major credibility boost, but can DISH afford to shell out that kind of money?  It shelled out far less for all of Blockbuster.

All three make sense, though what about Google (NAS: GOOG) ? I offered up severalreasons Big G would have the most to gain in acquiring Hulu, from fortifying its struggling Google TV platform to keeping it away from rivals. It was a shock to see that Google didn't make the cut according to the Financial Times article.

Well, Google may not be out of this bidding war just yet.

AllThingsD's Peter Kafka hears that Google is making a bigger bid for more than just what Hulu's owners are offering. Kafka speculates that it entails more content licensing for longer than the two years that are currently being offered in the auction.

I'm skeptical. We've seen regulators recently get surprisingly snippy on the M&A front. There won't be any antitrust concerns if Amazon, Yahoo!, or DISH emerge victorious, but a winning Google bid would slow the approval process down.  Hulu in the hands of the world's leading online advertising platform and the parent of YouTube? The purchase would still probably go through, but Hulu's owners may not want to subject themselves to a prolonged wait when Amazon, Yahoo!, and DISH would probably be able to close on a deal much sooner.

The Hulu bidding war is getting interesting. Who says that it's only reruns on TV in the summer?

If you want to see how the three reported bidders play out, consider addingYahoo!,DISH Network, andAmazon.comto My Watchlist.

At the time this article was published The Motley Fool owns shares of Yahoo! and Google.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Amazon.com, Yahoo!, and Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. Longtime Fool contributorRick Munarrizcalls them as he sees them. He owns no shares in any of the stocks in this story and is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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