Bids for Internet entertainment site Hulu are in with prices ranging as high as $2 billion, investment bankers said. A likely winner could be Google, which already operates YouTube.
Six bids for Hulu were received by sellers including Walt Disney Co., News Corp. and Comcast's NBCUniversal unit with low bids starting around $500 million. Besides Google, others participating in the auction were Yahoo and Amazon but not Apple, said Youseff Squali of Jefferies.
Hulu's investment bankers are Morgan Stanley and Guggenheim Partners. The streaming media service ordered its auction after receiving a bid from an unannounced suitor in June.
Other parties that may have looked at Hulu include Microsoft and AT&T, whose $39 billion bid for T-Mobile USA was thwarted this week by an antitrust civil suit filed by the U.S. Justice Department.
Rather than sell off Hulu, though, the current owners might prefer to keep the site, maintaining control over their own movies and TV shows.
Shares of Hulu rival Netflix plunged more than 20 percent Friday after Liberty Media's Starz said it would remove content and end rebroadcast rights next February. Under a deal negotiated in 2008, Netflix gets as many as 1,000 titles annually, including movies from Disney and Sony Pictures.
The damage down to Netflix, based in Los Gatos, Calif., might cause the Hulu owners to reconsider selling the site, preferring to maintain it as an online streaming content provider. However, one of the non-media Hulu owners is Providence Equity Partners, a private equity firm, which had previously sought an IPO for Hulu.
Since the IPO idea was scratched, Hulu introduced a paid subscription service called Hulu Plus which claims as many as a million subscribers paying $8 a month. Hulu executives said they expected the site's revenue to reach $500 million in 2011.