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Dish Network joins Hulu bidding fray

Satcaster eyes Internet vid giant as means of taking on Netflix

Satcaster Dish Network is among the companies that will enter the first-round of bidding for streaming service Hulu, according to sources.

While most reports have centered on the foursome of Google, Amazon, Yahoo and DirecTV, the Englewood, Colo.-based Dish is on the shortlist of those anticipated to bid on Hulu by Hulu’s owners.

That Dish is interested in Hulu isn’t entirely surprising given that the satellite service reportedly examined the venture’s financials at least a month ago. But the company has since faded from the field of projected suitors despite being very much in the game.

A spokesman for Dish declined comment.

Hulu’s owners are expecting to continue to field offers through the end of this week, with reports of a hard stop on Aug. 24 overstating what was always a loose deadline.

Other companies not on the shortlist may still make offers for the company owned by News Corp., Walt Disney Co., NBCUniversal and Providence Equity Partners.

Should Dish manage to snap up Hulu, it would mark the continuation of a remarkable multibillion-dollar spending spree over the past 12 months that has included Blockbuster, DBSD North America and TerreStar Networks.

With Hulu expected to fetch as much as $2 billion, a Dish purchase would represent an extraordinary outlay but not one inconsistent with the company’s goals. Since stepping in as CEO for founder Charlie Ergen earlier this year, Joseph Clayton has signaled his intent to provide some competition to Netflix by using Blockbuster as a vehicle for getting into the streaming-content business. Clayton has also indicated he could still make more acquisitions.

Having Hulu and Blockbuster under one roof would significantly improve Dish’s prospects in taking on Netflix, though with 25 million subscribers, the Los Gatos, Calif.-based company has enough of a lead not to sweat too profusely.

Coincidentally or not, Dish is the only distributor that News Corp.’s Fox has signed up that allows subscriber to get authenticated access to primetime series on Fox.com and Hulu the day after their original airdate. As of Aug. 15, non-Dish subs have to wait eight days after airdate to view Fox programs online.

Speculation regarding DirecTV had the satellite service going after Hulu in part to counter Dish’s intent to get into streaming via Blockbuster.

A spokeswoman for Hulu declined to comment.

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