Hulu sale called off after months of talks

LOS ANGELES Thu Oct 13, 2011 8:47pm EDT

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - An attempted sale of online video website Hulu has fallen through after months of difficult and complex negotiations between owners such as Walt Disney Co and potential buyers.

Hulu's owners, which also include News Corp, Comcast Corp's NBC Universal and Providence Equity, said in a statement on Thursday they had decided against a sale of the video service.

"Our focus now rests solely on ensuring that our efforts as owners contribute in a meaningful way to the exciting future that lies ahead for Hulu," they said in a statement.

Reuters reported last month that the auction was in danger of getting derailed by conflicts over convoluted digital rights, a wide bid-ask gap, and a lack of commitment to sell by Hulu's owners, among other things.

This was the second time Hulu's owners had envisioned a full or partial exit strategy that failed. After nearly six months of planning, they ditched an initial public offering last December that might have raised up to $300 million.

Sources with knowledge of the talks said last month a rift had developed between the price bidders offered and the amount that Hulu's owners were willing to accept.

Bids had ranged from as low as $500 million to as much as $2 billion, the sources said at the time. The most serious suitors included Google Inc, Amazon.com Inc, DirecTV and DISH Network Corp.

Yahoo Inc had been viewed as one of the most enthusiastic bidders -- before its leadership imploded with the abrupt firing of CEO Carol Bartz.

Hulu's owners had always faced an uphill battle in valuing a nascent Web content-streaming service with no long-term content deals and with unclear digital rights for newer Internet or mobile platforms for which there exists no established model.

Some analysts had thought an outright sale to be an abandonment of Hulu's future growth potential, particularly if, as some experts say, Internet streaming will become mainstream in coming years.

(Reporting by Swetha Gopinath in Bangalore and Edwin Chan in Los Angeles; Editing by Gary Hill)

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