Company may ask U.K. firms to take stake

Online video service Hulu plans to bow in the U.K. in September and is close to reaching content deals with local broadcasters.

Hulu, co-owned by News Corp., NBC Universal and Providence Equity Partners, is believed to be offering broadcasters equity stakes in the U.K. service plus a share of online advertising revenues. (Disney has a deal pending to become a co-owner.)

Unconfirmed reports suggest execs have already approached commercial terrestrial web ITV regarding a stake, something Hulu would not confirm. “Hulu continues to investigate opportunities for international expansion but doesn’t have any details to share at this time,” a spokesperson said.

One difficulty facing the launch is clearing rights. Premium shows like “The Simpsons” and “Heroes” are unlikely to be available, but 3,000 hours of other U.S. shows are expected to be featured.

The launch is being watched with keen interest by local industryites, who have been frustrated by regulators in their attempts to launch a similar commercial online video offering. The success of the BBC iPlayer suggests there is a gold mine waiting for the first to successfully tap this market.

Earlier this year the proposed online service Kangaroo, backed by the BBC, ITV and Channel 4, was nixed by the Competition Commission because it was feared they would unfairly dominate the local market.

Another online video offering, Canvas, bankrolled by the BBC, ITV and telco British Telecom, is waiting to be greenlit by the BBC Trust.

The news supports Five topper Dawn Airey’s recent warning that unless Brits got their act together on online video, a U.S. outfit would strike first.

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