The Walt Disney Company is discussing a deal with Hulu in which Disney could take an equity stake in Hulu in exchange for providing the video portal with ABC programming, according to multiple sources speaking with paidContent. The media giant would provide at least ABC’s TV programming such as Lost and other popular shows. It’s possible the deal could also involve the Disney Channel, ESPN content, and other networks that aren’t heavily dependent on cable and satellite TV.
At this point, it’s uncertain how close a deal might be,
though insiders hint that talks are serious. Many have wondered if equity in
Hulu will be enough for Disney to sign on or if Disney will insist that NBC
Universal and News Corp. extend their commitments to Hulu beyond the remaining
year. It’s also possible Disney could ask for a non-exclusive deal to keep rights
to co-distribute its content.
It is believed Disney revived its interest in Hulu after determining that Hulu could become much bigger than the company’s individual sites and after Hulu’s web video portal surged in popularity after its Super Bowl ad.
Hulu is currently the fourth-largest video page in the U.S., well ahead of Disney’s own portals. If this deal reaches completion, Hulu would once again have content from three of the four largest TV networks after CBS’ withdrawal last month. The Disney deal would also give Hulu even more clout over pay-per-download services from iTunes and Amazon. However, it’s worth remembering that Steve Jobs is a member of Disney’s board of directors and its single largest shareholder, which could put an interesting spin on things.
If the deal comes through, we’ll be one step closer to a one-stop shop for watching ad-supported TV online. That’s something we can all get excited about.