By: Gigaom
Big surprise: Hulu’s owners can’t agree on its future
A leaked memo hints at an uncertain future for Hulu after a buyout co-owner Providence Equity Partners. Not only could CEO Jason Kilar leave the company, but Hulu’s co-owners owners News Corp. and Disney don’t seem to see eye-to-eye on key issues.

Hulu’s corporate parents are set to buy out their co-owner Providence Equity Partners by September, and the deal could trigger numerous changes to the site, according to a Variety report that’s based on a leaked memo obtained by the publication.

One consequence: Hulu CEO Jason Kilar could be set to cash out up to $100 million in equity – and that windfall seems to worry News Corp. and Disney, who both own close to 30 percent of the company. The media conglomerates seem to fear that Kilar could jump ship, and the memo obtained by Variety seems to indicate that they’re working on contingency plans (Comcast also owns roughly a third of Hulu, but doesn’t have any direct influence on the company’s future due to conditions for its merger with NBC Universal).

The report also suggests that the Providence buy-out could lead to a number of licensing changes, which could lead to Hulu losing exclusivity for some of its content.

But come September, Hulu’s owners could see themselves confronted with an even bigger question: How will Hulu’s future look like? And that’s where News Corp. and Disney seem to have somewhat different ideas.

New Corp. wants to double down on authentication. Fox shows started showing up with an eight day delay on Hulu a year ago. Only viewers that either subscribe to Hulu Plus or authenticate themselves as pay TV subscribers have next-day access to shows like Glee or Family Guy. So far, Hulu is providing authentication for subscribers of Dish, Verizon and CableOne. News Corp. wants to quickly extend this to other pay TV operators.

Disney on the other hand wants nothing to do with this kind of authentication, according to Variety. That’s notable, because many observers have speculated time and again that Hulu will eventually transform to a TV Everywhere service that will only give pay TV subscribers access to its content. That kind of future seems to be a bit more uncertain now.


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