ABC/Disney making a deal with YouTube or buying a stake in Hulu?

Since it pioneered the business in 2006, ABC/Disney’s approach to online streaming has been simple: Our way or the highway.

While its rival networks have distributed their shows to dozens of different websites — CBS on its own, NBC and Fox via Hulu — ABC has signed only one, with AOL, and otherwise attempted to draw viewers to, where it can control the experience. “We’re focused on the economics, not just ubiquitous distribution,” digital media chief Albert Cheng said a year and a half ago.

Things have changed. Apparently the company behind “Lost” and “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Hannah Montana” is ready to sign a major online partnership and is choosing between Hulu and YouTube.

Late last week came news from numerous outlets, including the L.A. Times, that Disney was negotiating with NBC and Fox to buy a stake in Hulu. That would put its shows on the fast growing site and most likely, via its distribution deals, partners like Yahoo and MSN.

But today the plot thickened. PaidContent reports that Disney may go with YouTube instead. The two companies are already close to a partnership to put clips from the conglomerate’s TV shows on Google’s massive video service (with a generous revenue share, no doubt). But they’re also reportedly in more tentative talks about putting full episodes on YouTube, thus making Google the ABC’s main video partner and precluding an investment in Hulu.

Whichever way Disney ends up going, it looks like it won’t be going solo on the Web anymore.

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