The former president and COO of News Corp (NASDAQ:NWSA) Peter Chernin has bid around $500 million for Hulu, the popular online content streaming service, according to Reuters. Hulu was founded in 2007 with help from Chernin, who sat on its board. The company is currently jointly owned News Corp (NASDAQ:NWS), Walt Disney Co (NYSE:DIS), and Comcast Corp (NASDAQ:CMCSA). However, Comcast has no corporate control of Hulu as a condition of the deal in which it acquired NBC Universal.
Since leaving News Corp, Chernin founded the Chernin Group, which holds stakes in a number of media enterprises in film and television. The group also owns part of Pandora Media Inc, the popular online streaming radio service. After selling its 10% stake of Hulu back to the company a year ago for $200 million (which valued Hulu at $2 billion), Providence Equity Partners invested $200 million in the Chernin Group. Providence Equity Partners originally invested $100 million in Hulu to help start it.
Besides potentially selling Hulu, Disney, and News Corp are considering buying out the other’s stake. A planned sale of Hulu in October 2011 fell through after the bids fell short of Hulu’s $2 billion asking price. The reason why Chernin’s $500 million bid seems so low, according to Bloomberg, is that the deal does not include Hulu’s debts of $330 million and would go up depending on longer media contract terms and more content rights.
With more than 3 million subscribers to its $8 a month, premium “Hulu Plus” streaming service, the company generated approximately $700 million in revenue in 2012. However, Hulu is currently searching for a new CEO after Jason Kilar left last month. The acting CEO is Andy Forssell. Everyone contacted by Reuters at Chernin Group, Hulu, News Corp, and Disney declined to comment on Chernin’s bid.
Chernin’s investment group produced “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and Tom Cruise’s “Oblivion,” which opens later this month at theaters. The company is currently seeking media investments in China, India, Indonesia, and the US. Chernin also sits on the board of Twitter Inc.
Much of Hulu’s value is tied to its owners. NBC (owned by Comcast), Disney, and News Corp are all media giants. Any deal transferring ownership away from these media companies would be contractually heavy and uncertain, as losing content from any of these companies could potentially damage or ruin Hulu. As content providers start raising the costs for Netflix to acquire new content for streaming, it is uncertain how they will react to Hulu going relatively solo.