Hulu is talks to sell a stake to Time Warner Inc. in a deal that would value the video-streaming company at $5 billion and help it compete with Netflix and Amazon.com.
The proposal is for Time Warner to become an equal partner with Hulu's current owners, The Walt Disney Company, 21st Century Fox and Comcast, who now each own a third, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing unidentified people familiar with the talks.
Aside from cash, Time Warner would agree to license more content to Hulu than it already has, according to the Journal. Time Warner owns Warner Bros., which produces for all major broadcast and cable networks; Turner Broadcasting, which owns TNT, TBS, Cartoon Network and TruTV; and HBO, the newspaper pointed out.
According to Walt Disney's Chief Operating Officer Thomas Staggs, Hulu will boost spending to buy content or produce its own, the Journal reported. It's already bought content and produced original programming worth $1.5 billion this year, the Journal said, citing Nomura Securities. That figure is up from $600 million in 2014. Recent deals include rights to Seinfeld, South Park and Empire, Bloomberg News reported.
According to the Journal, Hulu has gotten deals in part by positioning itself as friendly to the television industry, which is worried about so-called cord-cutting as customers shift to Netflix and other Internet options.
“With Time Warner in the mix, it is hard to see a scenario where Hulu doesn’t become a more meaningful competitor to Netflix,” Bloomberg reported Paul Sweeney, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence, as saying.
According to Bloomberg, Hulu claimed 9 million paying customers in April, compared with the 69 million reported by Netflix worldwide in the third quarter, including 43 million in the U.S. According to the Journal, JPMorgan estimates Netflix could be worth $7 billion to $8 billion by 2016-end as subscribers rise to 16 million in that period.