Airey: U.K. must set up its own Hulu

Five head rallies for Brit TV media player

LONDON — Five topper Dawn Airey has warned that unless British broadcasters form alliances similar to that between Fox and NBC that created Hulu the local TV industry is “staring into the abyss.”

Airey, CEO and chairman of the commercial web, said: “Hulu is the biggest success story of the web over the past 12 months. And why has it succeeded? Because three ferociously competitive global media players — Fox, NBC Universal and now Disney-ABC — are grown up enough to know that there is a time to compete and fight likes rats in a sack for audience share and there is a time to put aside your differences and form partnerships that are mutually beneficial.”

Airey was speaking Tuesday in London at the Institute of Economic Affairs Future of Broadcasting Conference. She said unless video-on-demand services such as the proposed Project Canvas — backed by the BBC, ITV and British Telecom — are greenlit the “major beneficiary” is likely to be a company like Hulu.

There is speculation that Hulu is mulling a U.K. launch this fall.

She also spoke out against the government’s inability to provide a new funding model for the state’s advertising-driven Channel 4.

Five’s owner RTL had suggested a merger between Five and C4, but the latter rejected the idea and pols were unhelpful, according to Airey.

She said: “We were asked to help find a solution to Channel 4’s funding gap … then the government — which invited us to participate in the process in the first place — said they weren’t satisfied that our proposal would deliver public policy objectives over the long term. It’s not the long term any commercial broadcaster is worried about at this precise moment.

“Unless we come up with a sustainable business model for commercial broadcasting in the short- to medium-term, then the longer-term isn’t going to matter.”

All the commercial terrestrial webs have cut staff as they struggle against a dearth of ad coin and new competitors.

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