The deal would add Time Warner to Hulu’s media-conglomerate ownership. Currently, Hulu is owned by 21st Century Fox, Disney and Comcast’s NBCUniversal. If Time Warner acquired a stake in Hulu, each company would own 25%.
Time Warner declined to comment. Reps for Hulu did not respond to requests for comment.
Hulu’s owners previously tried twice to sell the joint venture, most recently two years ago. After a months-long sales process and receiving multiple bids, in July 2013 Fox, NBCU and Disney jointly announced that they would maintain their respective ownership positions in Hulu and together provide a cash infusion of $750 million.
Before the three congloms called off the sale, the short list of bidders included DirecTV, a joint offer from AT&T and Chernin Group, and Time Warner Cable.
Over the past two years, Hulu has been more aggressively competing for exclusive subscription VOD rights while at the same time boosting its slate of originals. The company also recently introduced a commercial-free SVOD plan for $11.99 per month, in addition to its $7.99 monthly service that includes limited ads.
A new cash infusion from Time Warner could give Hulu more firepower to take on chief rival Netflix. Execs at some large media companies have indicated that they’ll pull back on SVOD licensing deals overall, in order to increasingly monetize their content on their own services. In comparison to Netflix or Amazon, Hulu is seen as being more aligned with the strategic priorities of the major conglomerates.
On Time Warner’s third-quarter 2015 earnings call last week, CEO Jeff Bewkes told analysts that the company is rethinking its approach to subscription VOD deals.
“We’re evaluating whether to retain our rights for a longer period of time and forego or delay certain content licensing,” he said. “This would effectively push the (SVOD) window to a multiyear period more consistent with traditional syndication.”