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Hulu Owners Call Off Sale

Company was on the auction block for the past several months, but owners decide it has “compelling strategic value”

The Hulu sale has been called off, the company's owners announced on Thursday. 

The streaming service had been on the auction block since June, with its studio owners hoping to fetch a price in excess of $2 billion. 

As TheWrap previously reported, for the past several weeks a sale has looked unlikely. One person close to the decision called the move "a strategic decision," and not one based on the sale price. 

Bidders such as Dish Network and Google came close, but their offers either fell short or came with too many requests for extensions on more generous content deals to make a sale palatable. 

Also read: New Hulu Bids Due This Week, But Sale Probability Wanes

"Since Hulu holds a unique and compelling strategic value to each of its owners, we have terminated the sale process and look forward to working together to continue mapping out its path to even greater success," the company said in a statement. "Our focus now rests solely on ensuring that our efforts as owners contribute in a meaningful way to the exciting future that lies ahead for Hulu."

The company is co-owned by News Corp., Comcast, Disney and Providence Equity, most of whom believed that they might be able to get a better return for streaming rights to their content if Hulu and its over a million subscribers were independently owned and operated.

Hulu engaged Morgan Stanley and Guggenheim Partners to explore a potential sale after receiving an unsolicited takeover overture earlier in the summer. 

Though Disney's Bob Iger remained firmly and publicly in the "sell" camp, others such as News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch vacillated on the wisdom of a sale, an individual with knowledge of the sale previously told TheWrap. 

As the bids came in either below the desired $2 billion or with complicated conditions attached, Murdoch was finally swayed to the view that Hulu gives News Corp a front-row position in the digital future. 

All the owners had to agree to sell; News Corp. and Disney each had a veto in the process. 

While the auction unfolded, Dish was viewed as one of the primary suitors for Hulu's hand, offering a reported $1.9 billion.

That offer was topped by Google, which indicated a willingness to pay $4 billion for the streaming service, but mandated that current content deals be extended, taking money off the table over the long-time. 

Amazon and Yahoo also remained in the hunt. 

Throughout the process, CEO Jason Kilar remained without a contract, his old pact having expired in June. It's not known if Kilar will be retained now that Hulu's bevy of corporate parents have opted to hold on to the company. 

Additionally, there remains some debate about whether Hulu is profitable, but will its subscriptions and revenues increasing, it remains an attractive hedge against streaming services such as Netflix for media giants. The company is expected to record revenues of $500 million in 2011.

Now the question may be if Disney, Comcast and Providence wanted to exit — is News Corp. prepared to buy out its partners?