Sale may still be in Hulu’s future

News Corp. exec mulls venture's options

The owners of Hulu may still be open to selling the joint venture in the future, according to Jon Miller, chief digital officer at News Corp., who indicated that possibility in an appearance Wednesday at an industry confab.

Miller shed light on the rationale behind the decision to pull Hulu off the auction block at the Business Insider Ignition conference in New York. He explained that while some among the joint owners felt they needed to stay in the business of online content aggregation, those who disagreed with that notion could eventually revisit that decision.

“Even if you didn’t feel like you had to be an operator, you didn’t have to make that decision today,” said Miller, who was not suggesting there were any current sale discussions.

Hulu owners News Corp., Walt Disney Co., NBCUniversal and Providence Equity Partners first attempted to unload Hulu in June after an unsolicited bid. But after months of talking with suitors from DirecTV to Microsoft, the owners called off the sale last month.

Miller suggested Hulu’s owners saw the value of maintaining control over digital distribution of their own programming. Critics of the proposed deal had long suggested that Hollywood would essentially be setting up whatever tech company it sold Hulu to be in position to dictate future licensing terms of the owners’ high-value content: next-day access to primetime fare from ABC, NBC and Fox.

Miller addressed a variety of subjects on the digital front in a joint panel with Vivian Schiller, president of digital at NBC News. Though her parent company is also a Hulu owner, NBCUni has no say in Hulu per conditions of the conglom’s acquisition by Comcast Corp. earlier this year.

Miller also offered a prediction on YouTube’s recently announced foray into programming approximately 100 channels with content from premium providers. Likening the venture to the slow growth of the cable TV business, he forecasted the channel strategy would “start poorly,” but gradually gain enough traction to become a powerful force on the video landscape.