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Hulu Owners Explore Sale — Who Has a Few Billion Lying Around?

Hulu is once again on the block, but an outright sale is one of several avenues being considered

Hulu owners News Corp. and Disney have reached out to several potential buyers to explore the possible sale of the video streaming service, an individual with knowledge of the deal told TheWrap. Comcast also owns a stake in the company, but ceded voting shares as part of acquiring NBC Universal.

Hulu’s owners explored selling the company a couple of years ago before pulling back, and one individual with knowledge of the owners’ plans said a sale is one of several possibilities on the table. News Corp. could buy Disney’s stake, Disney could buy Fox’s stake, the two companies could bring in a new partner or the status quo could win out.

Representatives for Hulu and News Corp. declined to comment. A representative for Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The status quo would seem the least likely, as News Corp. and Disney have long held different visions for the company. Disney remains committed to Hulu’s initial ad-supported model, whereby the company generates revenue from advertisements that air with shows. Fox holds more interest in the newer Hulu Plus subscription service, which charges users for access to certain shows and movies.

Owners have also disagreed about how many shows should be made available — and when.

In a recent blog post, Hulu CEO Jason Kilar spelled out the recent growth at Hulu, which now boasts more than three million paid subscribers and generated $695 million in revenue last year.

While revenue has continued to grow, that subscriber figure pales in comparison to Netflix, a discrepancy attributable in part to the divergent corporate visions of various board members.

News of a potential sale, first reported by Reuters, emerges as the company undergoes a transition in leadership. Kilar, CEO since the company’s exception, will soon depart while Chief Creative Officer Andy Forssell ascends to the CEO role on an interim basis.

Forssell will be considered for the job full-time, but the company will have to figure out its ownership situation first. The last time Hulu explored a sale, it fetched bids in the $2 billion range. The latest talks are still preliminary, the individual with knowledge of the deal told TheWrap, and have not yet reached a pricing phase.