RTL chief says ad revenue issue is deal breaker

Hulu, the U.S. online service backed by NBC, Fox and ABC, is unlikely to ever sign a partnership deal with a European broadcaster, said RTL Group CEO Gerhard Zeiler.

Addressing the Royal Television Society’s Cambridge Convention on Thursday, in a session that looked at the threats and opportunities presented by Internet-enabled TV, Zeiler said talks to form joint ventures with Hulu collapsed because European webs were not prepared to allow Hulu to generate advertising revenue around their shows.

“We love to work with aggregators, but there are two conditions: We have to sell our own advertising, and we won’t sell individual programs to aggregators,” he said.

He recalled how in 2009 Hulu was confident it would roll out its service within 12 months in the U.K., France and Germany: “They didn’t do any deals because all the broadcasters said the same thing — we don’t want Hulu to change our euros into cents or our pounds into pence.”

In the U.K. ITV is understood to have held talks with Hulu. But with catch-up services now widespread in territories such as the U.K. thanks to the BBC iPlayer and ITV.com European broadcasters believe that Hulu has missed its chance this side of the Atlantic. In the same Cambridge session in which Zeiler made his remarks about Hulu, Virgin Media’s chief operating officer Richard Halton said that his company would generate 1 billion video-on-demand views this year in the U.K.

“Time shifting, more accurately individual viewing, is exploding,” said Halton.

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