We asked at the start of the month if Hulu’s impending debut is already too late. Well — drum rolls please — Hulu is set to open its doors, at least in beta form, on Monday. And lining up are even more critics.
Investor’s Business Daily writes that the “picture isn’t pretty” for the launch of NBC Universal’s and News Corp.’s online video joint venture, according to people in the industry.
“Some observers foresee failure,” Brian Deagon writes for IBD. “They say it suffers from not enough content and from having two partners that are rivals with poor track records in partnerships.”
Analysts have long viewed the joint venture between NBC Universal and News Corp. as an attempt to take on YouTube, the Web’s most popular video sharing site owned by Google. In preparation for the opening of Hulu, NBC pulled all of its promotional videos on its YouTube channel, which it launched in June 2006.
Blogger Peter Kafka, who writes for SiliconAlley.com, notes that Hulu has four things working against it: an entrenched competitor in YouTube; it was shunned by CBS, Disney, and Viacom (who were invited to join the venture); its partners hate each other; and it’s about two years too late. (Alley’s coverage here and here.)
IBC quotes one anonymous source as saying, “Hulu has had bad vibes from the start. It’s not clear from what NBC and Fox have said about Hulu to know for sure what the true intent of Hulu is.”
The Silicon Alley Insider, which has argued in the past that Hulu is “toast”, provided this week insight into Hulu’s content-distribution deals with NBC and News Corp. Of note are:
- Hulu can stream ad-supported content through third-party syndication sites such as AOL, MSN, MySpace, and Yahoo! (but we already knew this).
- In addition to Hulu, NBC and News Corp. are free to stream as much of their content to their own sites as they want (we figured on this); NBC will distribute content through NBC Direct as well.
- Hulu does have the right to cut third-party syndication deals. NBC/News Corp., however, cannot go out and cut direct distribution deals with the likes of Joost, Veoh, or YouTube etc.
- Hulu’s content does not include movies, sports, or news video.
- Hulu does not include download-to-own video from the networks. This content will continue to be sold on Amazon, iTunes, and elsewhere.
So we’ll see what happens once Hulu launches. If it succeeds, great. Video-loving fans everywhere can rejoice. If it fails, well, what’s the worst that can happen? NBC, News Corp. and its investors (led by Providence Equity Partners) will be out $100 million or more.
And they’ll have a little egg on the face.