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Yahoo submits bid for Hulu (allthingsd.com)
198 points by jmduke on May 24, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 168 comments

Holy cow. This is a big deal.

There is no reason why TV networks need to exist the way they do. Hulu, Netflix and Amazon all produce original content and are perfectly positioned to disrupt them as their distribution volume increases. Even the current distribution channel is being disrupted by Aereo. Hulu is a a huge asset.

If Yahoo gets in this game, they have a massive number of users, photos (flickr), blogposts (tumblr), mail, content... they're rivaling the reach and diversity of Amazon and Google as content owners (though without their respective cash cows of b2c sales and ads).

What's next? Is there some sort of connection that I'm missing between flickr, tumblr, the existing yahoo platform and hulu? Do they buy vimeo from IAC, or buy/merge with IAC? What's the strategy behind all the acquisitions?

They tried to buy a majority share from dailymotion from Orange a couple of weeks ago, but it was blocked by the french governement (a big shareholder in Orange).

Yahoo really wants a video service. I guess they want to come back to having a modern set of active services.

From the article's third paragraph:

Yahoo had previously tried to buy a large stake in French video site DailyMotion, but that bid was stymied by the French government.

>but it was blocked by the french governement

Governments screw everything up

They were probably right on the money considering Yahoo's reputation.

I would say we're already screwed if we're allowing governments to get in situations where they "consider Yahoo's reputation."

That's none of their damn business.

Given that they own a bunch of stock in Orange, yes, it literally is their business.

a bunch like in biggest shareholder. I still don't know if I agree with the action made in my name tho. I'm not in this anti-state crap, I just wonder how to make efficient militant shareholder decisions. To their credit they are trying something.

"What's the strategy behind all the acquisitions?"

I think yahoo finally got their shit together. Yahoo! has always been a surprisingly healthy company from a strict financial standpoint. They are a strong stock that a lot of blue-collar investors have loved; consistent, slightly innovative (enough to meet projections, but not too crazy that might have resulted in major losses [even though they have stumbled]) and they offer the basic pillars of a healthy tech company i.e. mail, search, content etc.

Yahoo has a nice amount of cash, and they are finally using it in a beneficial way, which is funny because it took someone from Google to realize that (remember yahoo trying to position itself as a "media" company).

I think the strategy is to do what you described above; be able to compete with the likes of Google and Amazon. They have mail, content, a social network (Tumblr and Flickr), healthy advertising etc and if they can pull off Hulu they would be able to have an end-to-end solution for users. I don't think they would buy Vimeo, from my perspective I couldn't see why that would be beneficial and IAC would probably want a hefty price for it.

If I was going long on a tech stock (say 36-60 months) I would put my money on Yahoo. I think Marissa Mayer is finally getting it right.

Think how google has sprinkled G+ across all their properties - I'm guessing Yahoo's next big announcement will be some kind of social layer bringing it all together. I would be most surprised if Yahoo did not already have 1000 monkeys coding away on some secret black ops social product that will launch in some form before the end of the year.

They've already said it: they want their homepage to be all about you. Think about what that means in this wider context, where they operate as an alternative way to discover content across all kinds of different verticals. They want to take over the space currently occupied by traditional media. For better or for worse, they're the most "human" of Silicon Valley's big web companies, and I think they might actually succeed.

I would argue though that social isn't about "you" - its about "them", your friends, your social network. Currently I'm not sure it its possible to "friend" or "circle" someone on any Yahoo page (excluding now tumblr), and "sharing" on Yahoo is just a series of exit links to every other social network. That must make Marissa mad.

Yahoo has always been a content portal. The strategy? To have a diverse range of offerings in the hopes that everything you use will be be on the Yahoo network. That's been the winning strategy since AOL, but success in the area has proven fleeting.

>users, photos (flickr), blogposts (tumblr), mail, content

Other than content, arent those second rate internet properties though? Maybe thats their plan in order not to compete with google/amazon.

(i know flickr is used by professionals, but instagram probably has more users)

Flickr has an estimated 87 million users [1], and Instagram has 100 million. Note sure what your definition of "second rate" is (quality or quantity?) but Flickr is much better quality than Instagram, especially after the recent update. Regarding email, Outlook, GMail, and Y! Mail are pretty much all tied at 290'ish million users worldwide, but Y! owns the top spot in the US [3]. Most of Y!'s media properties are #1 in their respective areas as well (News, Sports, OMG, etc).

[1] http://www.theverge.com/2013/3/20/4121574/flickr-chief-marku...

[2] http://instagram.com/press/#

[3] http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57543177-93/gmail-edges-hot...

Most of those Flickr users are dormant accounts, like mine.

I stand corrected

>Hulu, Netflix and Amazon all produce original content and are perfectly positioned to disrupt them as their distribution volume increases.

Uhh, as a Hulu subscriber, I'll just let you know: If I only had "Hulu" content to pick from, I'd cancel my subscription immediately. It's not great stuff, barely worth paying for and CERTAINLY not worth both paying for and sitting through the same 4 advertisements over-and-over-and-over again for.

Basically, I don't care who owns Hulu, but if Hulu isn't getting next-day network television + back catalogs, then I'm not going to subscribe. That's what I want it for, and I imagine I'm not the only one.

No, no, no. That's not what I meant, sorry if it wasn't clear.

The point isn't that they're buying Hulu for its original programming. It's that if they want to become a major player in the original content space, they'll need a huge user base to start with. For that, they need licensed content.

In other words, my thesis is that TV networks can be disrupted by someone else making original content and distributing it over the web, but the disruptor will need a big number of users to make this possible. It's much easier to get that big user base with licensed content.

Whether it makes sense for Yahoo to be in the studio and production business is another question!

But this is only buying an extremely limited license to content. Its a catch 22 the only reason Hulu has had any success is because its had premium content provided by its current owners. If Hulu goes independent the content rights are likely not getting renewed at their current rates.

Note that there were rumors that Google already made an overture to buy Hulu at a price rumored to be 2x the current price but with much longer licensing terms and were turned down.


Unless Yahoo wants to focus more on original programming for Hulu (a strategy I'm behind) then buying it for its current content rights is a fools bet.

Netflix seems to be doing better at this model. But I'd agree the more competition as we can have in the space, the better.

sitting through the same 4 advertisements over-and-over-and-over again for

What is it I don't understand about the online video business that causes this to happen? They can't get enough advertisements from their partners to allow them to be less repetitive? Advertisers don't want to provide variety? (Maybe advertisers specifically want the monotony? Surely not, else they'd follow the same scheme on network TV.) The endless repetition sucks to watch and it makes the whole thing seem amateurish.

I think this might be one of the areas that Yahoo could really help. They've got a lot of advertising experience, and would hopefully improve Hulu's ad performance.

Both Hulu and Tumblr have proved that ads can work in their product, but haven't really brought them to any meaningful scale. Maybe that's what attracts Yahoo to them?

this is the absolute worst, along with turned up volume for commercials it's pure evil. if there is a hell, i am sure it will be filled with repetitive commercials breaks.

if i remember watching tv at my parrents, the regular tv networks do the same thing right? my best guess is that they did some psychological studies and such repetition is necessary to program your brain with "WANT ARBY'S SANDWICH"

Hulu's CPM's are incredibly high, on par with prime time TV. Not that many companies advertise on TV at those rates; even fewer do so online.

Huh. OK, then it surprises me that they charge so much. I guess they're selling their ad space, though? (Hence it being sensible for them to charge such a high CPM rate.)

Honestly, I'm just glad someone took that Gangnam Style pistachio commercial out back and shot it finally.

I'm scared to even mention the commercial though, in fear that I will go home and be subjected to another 20-30 plays of it :(

On a tangent, that ad was such a terrible missed opportunity.

Here you have scored this exclusive deal with this impossible international crossover genius comedic rapper, and you sell a pretty delicious product, and all you can think of is a 1950s-style cutesy celebrity endorsement format. Ending with a very pre-Don-Draper, wink-and-a-fake-smile, generic-celebrity-worshipping closer "If Psy does it, we all go nuts."

I really liked Gangnam Style the first 30 times, and I enjoy Wonderful's pistachios, but this was perhaps the most unimaginative intersection of the two possible.

....and you just said the manufacturer's name on a unrelated forum, so their ad campaign was a success.

So it's impossible to discuss unsuccessful ad campaigns, as doing so immediately makes them successful?

If you're thinking/talking about the ad campaign, it wasn't unsuccessful. The unsuccessful ones are forgotten.

Funny, i'd seen that ad a dozen times and up until now i had no idea who made the ad.

Yeah Hulu-specific content is not that great. The main reason I watch it is for specific TV shows that I want to watch after they air on cable. I canceled my cable two years ago and I haven't looked back since.

Right now yes. In the future, who knows.

It doesn't seem like this would go away though. Each of the big streamers are building a specific base set of streamable content.

Amazon is focused on newer films more so than Netflix and Hulu.

Hulu is focused on new television content, with some original programming from overseas shows mostly.

Netflix is focused on older television and movie content, with stronger original programming.

HBO Go will be new movies and strong original content.

Right now there is certainly room for all of these services... I think in the future its highly likely we'll see other channels make a stronger stream crossover (like Comedy Central, Food Network, ESPN, etc..) and we'll basically have content streaming channels. In that world, Netflix, Amazon and HBO GO are still strong, but Hulu might start loosing content or have stronger competition, and that could be problematic.

House of Cards is great though.

Yep, I love Netflix and loved every second of House of Cards! Although I have the opposite issue with Netflix. Lack of constantly added content makes their library feel stale at times, while every time I hit hulu.com it pops up with a list of shows with a "NEW EPISODE!" badge. Keeps you going back!

Two words: back catalog. My Netflix queue doesn't go shorter, no matter how I try (both DVD and streaming). Sometimes I feel like a kind in a candy store, when drilling down their recommendations.

Man the "same 4 advertisements over-and-over-and-over" bothered the hell out of me as well. If you're going to do video ads, I'm fine with it, really, just don't make me listen to the same ones over and over for months.

Wow....I feel like I am watching a brilliant game of chess. Marissa Mayer is increasingly showing her genius.

It is clear that she understands that Yahoo is a New Media company. They serve assets to many eyeballs and monetize those assets.

It seems that in her case, their main goal is grab up as much quality inventory as she can, and monetize the hell out of it.

As their media inventory gets bigger, economies of scale start to kick in. Nike may not want to just advertise on Yahoo & Flickr, but they would be damned if they turn away the potential to reach audiences in Yahoo, Flickr, Tumblr, and now possibly Hulu. Plus I imagine that the more inventory they hold, is the more they can package that inventory to increase the unit price for all properties.

Holy crap....this is brilliant and yet so obvious. Why have other CEOs not grasped this and executed on it the way Mayer is.

I think this is the one of the few cases, in Corporate America, where going on an M&A spree makes the most sense.

Another thing is the more properties she buys, and the better deals she does is the easier it is to buy other deals. Startups loved being bought by Google because YouTube was bought by Google. The same thing is starting to happen. Yahoo! bought Tumblr, so other companies are going to feel comfortable being bought by Yahoo! and that will create more deal flow, resulting in more deals.

Hrmmm...I wonder how much cash Yahoo has on their balance sheet - either way, I am sure they can raise a ton of money to do more deals.

WoW....just WOW!!!!

Is "buy lots of big properties so you can advertise across all of them" really CEO genius? It's something that Yahoo was doing for years before Meyer even came on board- they bought Flickr and Delicious, and tried to buy Facebook. Granted, none of those were hugely successful, but we're still yet to see whether Tumblr and (maybe) Hulu will be.

I'm not sure that buying Hulu is such a slam-dunk, anyway. They are entirely at the mercy of the TV networks- if they pull content, Hulu is worth very, very little. People use Hulu largely because they have to.

Fully agree. Buying properties is certainly not innovative, or genius for that matter. Oracle was on a shopping spree two years ago and there was nothing genius or innovative about that move.

Marissa's CEO tenure is to be determined as are all these deals that she's making.

I think Hulu is a decent move for Yahoo, but the proof is in the pudding and it's all just media hype at the moment. Additionally, like you said, Hulu is run by the content companies - if they pull their content, it's worth zero. Content deals are very difficult and tricky to achieve, especially for Yahoo being non-factor in the content game (vs. companies like Apple and Amazon that have deep content deal making skills).

This could be a potentially idiotic move.

I worked at Yahoo 2003-2005, and already then the split between the "Yahoo is a technology company" crowd - exemplified by those who still wanted Yahoo to try to compete on search technology - and the "Yahoo is a media company" crowd was rapidly being won by the media company crowd.

I was in London, and I don't know much about how this played out in Sunnyvale, but apart from some occasional attempts at convincing people otherwise (like the acquisition of WhereOnEarth that was widely "advertised" across the company) on our end at least "everyone" apart from some pockets of engineering appeared to understand very clearly that Yahoo was a media company where growing pageviews to monetize them with ads was the core of the company.

I think the genius will instead lie in her plan for internal consolidation for the two platforms to converge in harmony as complementary.

Taken together the two most recent poaches (i.q. provided Hulu) have much crossover especially while accounting for further past acquisitions. Amalgamating successfully will position them as key content provider in the market.

That last sentence was so full of businessy-speak....I have no idea what you meant to say....and I am an MBA!

Not a ceo, but buying hulu looks like a good idea if they have the cash. Better than rolling out a new one from scratch. I would say simple business decisions may make a good businessperson.

You cant roll out a Hulu from scratch. It is basically a venture between content providers. How much TV content does Yahoo produce ? none. It is a huge mistake to buy Hulu. I dont know how much they'll be paying for this but it is worth 0 money, just like Tumblr.

I don't understand why this criticism keeps coming up.

Isn't it safe to assume that anyone that is buying Hulu would know that the content is what is most important?

I assume that to be the case for Mayer, so I assume she wouldn't buy Hulu without the content. That doesn't make sense. Unless....she knows something that we don't know...like Yahoo is going into the original content creation business like Netflix - but even then, we would still be years away from Hulu recovering from the networks pulling their stuff.

Give them a little credit please.

It's not like the content providers are going to abandon a rather large channel with a lot of momentum.

This may very well be true. But you shouldn't discount some points.

1. Yahoo will negotiate some kind of licensing agreement.

2. Yahoo will benefit from a known name and existing users.

So there are 2 ways to look at your feedback. You either just saw what you wanted to see in my comment, and responded to that - or you take for granted what she is doing.

I never said that "buying lots of big properties so you can advertise across all of them" is CEO genius. I said...that Mayer is increasingly showing her genius.

It's not about acquiring internet properties...it is the properties that she is choosing to acquire. It's also the fact that those properties are even agreeing to be acquired by her - that is making her feat even more impressive.

Nothing is guaranteed to be a slam-dunk. Many of these acquisitions may turn out to be duds or not as good as we (who want to see Mayer succeed) hope.

>* It's something that Yahoo was doing for years before Meyer even came on board- they bought Flickr and Delicious, and tried to buy Facebook.*

I think that statement alone is an indication to the genius that is Mayer. Yahoo tried to buy Facebook for a similar $1B back in the day, and was rebuffed. Fast forward a few years, and under different leadership a similar deal can be made with a similarly "hot startup" and the deal is accepted. Sure, I know there are many factors at play, but the fact of the matter is just a few years ago - Yahoo couldn't make these types of deals. It must be that I am not the only one that thinks she is doing a good job.

Also, if what she is doing is not genius, then why did no one else do it like her before? The genius in this situation is not going on a shopping spree willy nilly. She came in, and has clearly looked at Yahoo for what it is. She doesn't seem to be trying to be like Google - although some of the commenters here dispute that. She is steadily, and systematically improving the best of Yahoo and killing the worst. She is also adding properties that will play to Yahoo's strengths.

The mere fact that they unveiled a re-design of Flickr that puts pictures front-and-center, while acquiring Tumblr. I think people misunderstand what a brilliant move that is.

She refreshed a property that is inherently friendly to "display media" (i.e. not link/text based media) - while buying another hot property that is inherently friendly to "display media". Once they crack the code, that allows them to add adverts to the content on their network, without sacrificing the quality of the experience too much (i.e. doing to display media what Google did to SERP results).....that could be even more powerful than what Google did - because most brands and agencies prefer display media, because it connects with the audience more.

If they spam all their properties with annoying Flash ads then that is an easy way to squander it - but if they figure out a novel/innovative way to monetize this inventory....and she continues to acquire hot properties at the current rate....we could be looking at the most valuable tech company in the next decade. If not most valuable, if you assume that Google doesn't find another major stream of revenue, Yahoo could be worth more than Google at least.

You heard it here first ;)

Edit: Oh...and also....no serious buyer would pay any amount of series cash for Hulu without reasonable contracts for the content that makes it so appealing. If Mayer does that, that would be a dumb move - unless she knows something we don't....which I don't think that's the case. Given her short track record, I would be surprised (and disappointed) if she did that.

It sounds to me like she's trying to build another Google. It's really (almost impossibly) hard to dethrone innovators without actually doing any innovation. It's equally difficult keeping talent when the corporate culture isn't hacker-centric.

While buying your way into the party is a nice first step, what do you do when you don't have the talent pool to continue to innovate and can't even grow it? Especially when you don't allow remote work, and this industry is increasingly going remote (even if only part-time)?

I'm seeing a lot of big talk (primarily via money) from Yahoo, but I don't feel convinced that this is going anywhere. Without a focus on the people and innovation, what do you do after you buy a bunch of startups? So far Yahoo's response has been "buy them and let them operate independently." People go to work at Google to work at Google, not to work at a subsidiary of Google. So if I wanted to go work for Hulu, I'd want to work for Hulu, not Yahoo. Yahoo hasn't been an engineer's company for a very, very long time, and I don't see them taking strides to fix that, so it's hard to say what's going to happen.

In order to change the company's product trajectory, culture, and perception there are many stages that they must go through to get to the ultimate goal. At this point in time, Yahoo does not have the public perception that they are a cool company to work for, especially for engineers. This makes it a near impossible task to attract the talent necessary for internal innovation. However, if they buy cool companies, show that they are working on things internally (Flickr redesign), and prove that management is competent, they will be able to transition to internal innovation.

Of course, it is a big jump to go from buying companies to transforming their culture to match the perception that they are attempting to create. Perhaps removing the ability to work remotely was a bad first step, perhaps not. I imagine that Mayer knew what she was doing here and it will likely turn out to be a positive move. The big question is what other steps they take internally to truly change the culture. It could be a big flop, but if anybody knows a little something about company culture it would be Mayer.

> At this point in time, Yahoo does not have the public perception that they are a cool company to work for, especially for engineers.

That's the thing, it's all public perception and not based in reality. I've worked at Y! for ~4 years (software engineer) and love it. As Marissa has publicly stated, Y! is the world's largest startup, so there's a ridiculous amount of opportunity to work on fun and challenging problems.

> As Marissa has publicly stated, Y! is the world's largest startup

All CEOs state that because its the hot, sexy thing. Especially for the new, younger employee generation.

The problem is you don't want a culture with the public perception, at least for engineering, you're looking for the the same culture that are leaving the company now. So many awesome things came out of Y! but I feel much like they are going the ways of Sun.

> what do you do when you don't have the talent pool to continue to innovate and can't even grow it?

I'm sure Yahoo still has a big talent pool. Don't really know how they managed to do it as it doesn't really make sense, however if you want some proof of that, take a look at: http://developer.yahoo.com/everything.html (speaking of which, did you know that Apache Hadoop was initiated and is still led by Yahoo?)

> So far Yahoo's response has been "buy them and let them operate independently."

Actually that wasn't Yahoo's behaviour in the past. Delicious for example stagnated after they began rewriting/redesigning it, as they wanted Delicious to be "integrated" with Yahoo's network. Development eventually grinned to a halt. If Yahoo would have kept Flickr or Delicious operating independently, then both would be a lot bigger than they are today.

Yahoo also did a stupid move when they sold Delicious. But at the very least they sold it, instead of shutting it down, like Google did with Reader.

> People go to work at Google to work at Google, not to work at a subsidiary of Google.

Well, no, you're talking about the poor fools that go through that awful interview process without caring about what they'll end-up working on, being assigned on Calendar, or on fixing bugs of internal tools, or on some project destined for some African country that nobody will ever hear about, or on some other soul-sucking activity with the only thing to show for being a Google T-shirt.

Google is still a good brand among employers and it's still something to be able to say that you're working at Google, however, like all other big software companies, Google got too big and those with a minimal internal knowledge of how things work there know for a fact that it really isn't the glamorous place to work at, unless you're lucky.

> Yahoo hasn't been an engineer's company for a very, very long time, and I don't see them taking strides to fix that

I can't possibly imagine how in the world would you know that, unless you worked for them. Well did you?

> on some project destined for some African country that nobody will ever hear about,

Uh, bringing a billion people onto the Internet for the first time, and turning the 3rd world into the 1st world, isn't most people's definition of soul-sucking.

The Hadoop team quit Yahoo to start HortonWorks last year.

It is clear that she understands that Yahoo is a New Media company. They serve assets to many eyeballs and monetize those assets.

That is pretty much the exact same thing as Terry Semel's vision for Yahoo was.

Remember him?

Yes...but for whatever reason, he couldn't execute.

Perhaps he didn't have the geek cred that Mayer has - so no one would make the deals with him.

Tumblr is a major coup for her, and if she pulls of Hulu...that would be crazy too.

Wonder what Jerry Yang has to say about all of this

I agree. The other contributing factor here: Yahoo's in a position to bet the farm. They're not growing, and haven't been for years.

(Look at their financials: http://www.marketwatch.com/investing/stock/yhoo/financials)

Analysts only expect sales to increase 1-3% over the next few years: http://www.thestreet.com/story/11933654/3/4-big-stocks-ripe-...

She was pulled in to make big moves.... and is making them!

Except Hulu doesn't have much inventory, at least on an exclusive basis. It has eyeballs and distribution. The assets belong to the studios and networks.

A roll-up is not exactly a new strategy, especially in media. You attempt to build economies of scale by amassing audience and distribution. Historically, however, the prices you pay (especially once folks figure out what you're doing) often prove to be inflated later on.

As an acquisition, Hulu is essentially a bag of content contracts with expiration dates. The infrastructure has value, but it's probably incidental to an acquirer like Yahoo. The challenge is to turn that bag into a property with lasting value; Yahoo is in a much better position to multiply that value than the group of current owners whose half-hearted "coopetition" has resulted in the fickle and watered-down service we currently enjoy.

Thank you!

News Corp, Comcast, etc. They don't have the experience selling online display media like Yahoo!

Guess who else does? No one!!!!

So they have an incentive to cooperate.

As I said earlier, if Mayer makes a deal without locking up long-term contracts, then on the surface that seems like a dumb deal.

Given what I have seen of her so far, I would be surprised if she did that. She is doing good so far.

Making acquisitions like this isn't CEO genius. Far from it. Yahoo was making acquisitions before Mayer.

It's what happens after the acquisitions are made that will determine whether Yahoo just blew billions of dollars or actually pushed their company forward into the next generation.


It's not about the fact that she is making acquisitions. It is a well known fact that CEOs like to be self-aggrandizing by doing big deals.

The difference is the TYPE of deals she is doing.

All of her deals, so far, fit into Yahoo's strengths.

Also...the fact that she is able to do these deals at all, is testament to her genius. Many others before her tried, but couldn't do these deals.

So there must be something different about her than everybody else that tried.

Edit: And yes, the story is yet to be told about how these acquisitions turn out. But with the refocus on product, recent redesign and refactor of Flickr and the way she is consolidating Yahoo's focus around products that give quality display media inventory. That is the genius. It is easy to dismiss it, but if it were so easy, why did no one else do it - including 2 of the founders!

Hahaha hold your horses dude. What is so genius about buying a bunch of gigantic companies ?

Genius? Tumblr is not worth what they paid for and it sounds like the next myspace deal. Hulu makes 0 profit.

There is no genius in just buying random stuffs.

It is so short sided ( stock pumping ) it can only lead to a crash .

There is 0 strategy just a big bubble.

Can anyone explain why Hulu wants to sell to a third party? I understand there's infighting according to the article, but it's unclear to me why one of the owners doesn't buy out the rest. Is there some general principle behind not selling to your competitors and choosing a party currently without a huge stake in television or movies like Yahoo? I'm curious about both reasons specific to this particular deal and general principles behind selling to third parties.

It's all about licencing.

"In 2011, Hulu’s owners put the company up for sale and were looking for a bid of at least $2 billion; in exchange, they would offer content licenses that would run for two to three years."

"Last month, former News Corp. COO Peter Chernin submitted a starting bid of $500 million, with the understanding that he would be willing to pay more for extended licenses."

Basically, a huge chunk of Hulu's value is having a wide selection of content. At the same time the people doing the highest value licencing also own the content. Right now they can play an accounting game and lower the licencing costs to make it look profitable sell and then raise their licencing costs. Effectively it's the same money because they own the company as long as all the owners agree to a sweetheart deal. Unfortunately for them they are having some issue deciding just how much everyone should discount there content to make Hulu look better. However, nobody got suckered into there 2 billion dollar shell game.

I have had a Hulu account for the last two years. I recently canceled it.

Their content is actually not that good, and on top of it, you're forced to watch commercials as well. The service was terrible.

That never really made sense to me either. If you're going to pay for hulu, you would expect to not have to sit through the commercials.

> That never really made sense to me either.

It makes perfect sense. Money from subscriptions is good; extra money from ads is better. And as much as you or I dislike it, we're probably in a minority position here - if it was really cutting into earnings, they'd have cut it out by now.

Hulu having ads isn't about the money they make. It's about keeping ads as normal in peoples minds. If Netflix and Hulu and any other online only vod dropped all ads then people might start to resent ads, and seem them as abnormal. Then people will watch less network and cable TV, which need ads.

Most of Netflix doesn't have ads.

Are there any ads on Netflix? I can't think of any.

There's product placement in some programmes, for example the Netflix-produced House of Cards contains jarring product placement for the Playstation Vita.

That was surprising and disappointing. I guess they need product placement, but some of the Playstation stuff was a bit heavy handed and ham fisted.

There is a lot of product placement in most TV shows this was just poorly done. If someone says a brand name or you see a logo long enough to read it than chances are that's product placement. EX: Someone's drinking a beer/soda I'd you see the label it's deliberate.

There are not ads on Netflix. I wasn't being clear enough. I meant that if there are video on demand services like Netflix without ads then people will see ads as a discomfort in vod services with ads, like Hulu.

While I agree the idea of it is ludicrous-- paid cable subscriptions come with commercials. Is this really so shocking?

The commercials is the reason I've never bothered with a Hulu sub. I pay on iTunes and Netflix so I don't have to deal with those.

Well most people pay for basic cable and most of those channels have ads.

Granted HBO and Netflix don't have commercials but I think they also both use product placement (edit: see granddaughter comment for more info) in their original content so it's not like there's some philosophical commitment they've made to not show subscribers ads to pad the bottom line.

I'd rather have (tastefully done) product placement than ads. And I could never notice any product placement in House of Cards or Game of Thrones.

Honestly they should just add another tier with no ads.

$8: Hulu with x ads per show.

$9: Hulu ad free.

There was a True Blood/Apple image series atop reddit not too long ago but Googling reveals that HBO insists that they don't raise money for product placement but allow writers to use products so score one for HBO.

Humorously, Apple claims they don't pay for product placement but they do give devices away which is supposed to be different I guess.

Netflix ran into problems with Lillehammer due to Norwegian law against paid placement.

House of Cards with non-paid for Apple advert below:


Just to go further into the numbers Hulu makes quite a bit from the ads. Link [1] is from Feb 2011 when Hulu was making 14.3 cents per episode.

That means if you were watching 2 episodes a day Hulu was making more from you in a month from ads then from the Hulu Plus subscription. And I think ads have noticeably increased since 2011. I guess we know why that autoplay next episode kicks in so fast. And I guess it goes to the true cost of these licensing deals and why Netflix has a much worse tv selection that's a year old.

[1] http://www.wirelessgoodness.com/2011/02/04/hulu-generates-0-...

Huh... I wonder how much they make when I watch 30 seconds of Colbert and close the window.

Apple has a team devoted to making Apple products easy to use in productions, and aggressively courts producers. But they don't "pay". It's exactly the same as how companies send press releases (and demos) to lazy journalists to reprint as news.

I saw it in House of Cards. You just might not notice it if you already had the products shown. It wouldn't seem unusual to you. I don't know about Game of Thrones, but I would guess some manufacturers of sharp objects, alcohol, and clothes were subtly inserted. Maybe some beer company ran an "as seen on Game of Thrones" ad.

My understanding is that the Hulu subscription pays for fixed overhead (and profit), and the ads pay for marginal licensing. That might be a lie, though.

I've never understood why people dislike the commercials so much.

Most of their half hour (21 minute) shows only contain at most three minutes of commercials spread through the show. At worse you're sitting through a minute break from the show.

People pay $100+ per month and seem to live through tens of minutes of commercials per show.

Plus is about having device and HD access more than anything. I like it as I get far more content from it than I can over the air and I refuse to pay $60-100/month for cable/satellite.

Ignoring the obvious "I don't want to watch fucking random useless shit in the middle of something I am enjoying," there is another reason: commercials create mental pollution that in some cases never goes away.

For instance, I still have the jingle of this horrid local low-budget commercial from KFTY TV 50 (UHF broadcasting out of Santa Rosa, CA) in my brain: "♫ Auto body masters... EuroCal... ♫ Auto body masters... EuroCal...".

I was fucking eight. It's been thirty fucking years. And yet that crappy little jingle for a company I never used still bubbles up to the surface sometimes, in the shower or in the subway station. We all carry around these little worthless turd fossils in our heads. I noticed my friend humming McDonalds' I'm lovin' it to herself as she worked just 20 minutes ago.


So if you hadn't seen the commercial, what else would be playing in your head? Mozart?

Perhaps not Mozart, but anything is better than a fucking jingle.

I havent seen a TV commercial in years.

We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded by information. Some of it stick to your brain whether you like it or not. Presumably the brain has a finite amount of bandwidth for processing/retaining incoming information. With that in mind, I'll do my best to avoid commercials so something from the 'useful' information streams has a better chance of sticking.

Or perhaps my brain will latch on to some other useless information. But thats ok, because adverts are the fucking bottom-feeders of the information ocean.

Commercials didnt use to annoy me that much. But for the last three years I've consumed all my TV via Netflix and online video, commercial free. Now I find commercials unbearable. Sometimes I even get angry - how dare they interrupt my immersion and enjoyment of a story? Imagine if you were reading a book and every 5 minutes some obnoxious advert interrupted you? Thats how weird it feels.

They've tried ads in books. (http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/12/the-secret-hist...)

I wish there were no ads in the middle of a programme. I hate it. We live in a world of "director's cuts", so I'm surprised we still get weird stupid ads throughout a movie.

When I watch TV, adverts fascinate me as a study of society. I'll admit that the enjoyment drops off after the first time though.

But are TV adverts really more "mentally polluting" than a 80s song or a limerick you picked up at a schoolyard? Relax everybody.

adverts fascinate me as a study of society

Thats a nice perspective, I might try that. The science of advertising is also interesting - these marketers spent squillions of research dollars on figuring out the most effective technique to transfer an idea/emotion/brand (essentially a meme) to your brain. Those techniques are also applicable to giving a presentation for work and public speaking. I've noticed the most successful people in the workplace are those who can 'sell' their ideas to their colleagues and managers.

But are TV adverts really more "mentally polluting" than a 80s song or a limerick you picked up at a schoolyard?

For the most case I think you're right. There is a subset of more evil adverts which attempt to play on insecurities (body image, gender roles/responsibilities, medical fearmonging). But most advertising is just...transient noise. Never attribute to malice what can be explained by banality.

I have a pet theory that our brains will retain a certain amount of useless 'mental pollution' regardless of what information streams are being thrown at it. Not because we need those little nuggets of useless information, but because they are implicit to the formation and recall of other 'useful' memories and emotions. Memory is a multi-sensory thing, regardless of what part of the memory is 'useful'.

Music is a special case, its ability to trigger episodic memories is very strong[1]. I like to think of it in computer science terms as a hash table[2]. If you spend enough time doing a certain thing whilst listening to the same music, the event is stored against the hash (music). Then in the future, listening to this music will trigger a very strong memory of that time in your life.

I spent many hours as a teenager listening to music whilst playing video games. Now if I listen to these albums, the memories instantly 'come flooding back' as the saying goes.

[1]I believe olfactory triggers are stronger than auditory triggers. Perhaps smell-o-vision advertising is the next big thing.

[2] Not a great analogy - the linking and recall is really bidirectional.

This is the question. We intake so much that has been produced by others (mostly for commercial purposes) that it's plausible that one doesn't know what would be going through their head, were it not for commercials, movies, tv shows, advertising and the like.

One of the reasons I stopped watching (the stand-up comedy section at the start of) late-night talk shows is because laughing meant I was inside the bubble and, in my view, part of the problem.

Also interesting to think about is if we take out the need for money (ie, in Star Trek or back when we traded things) it makes me wonder what we would be spending our time with, mentally and otherwise.

No, probably Metallica's Seek & Destroy.

Which, while not in heavy rotation on my current playlists, would still be a big upgrade.

Perhaps. Don't you get music playing in your head?

While I feel your pain... that jingle must've been damn catchy! I wonder how effective it was at attracting potential customers from the older-than-eight set?

>I've never understood why people dislike the commercials so much.

Speaking from a purely speculative and subjective opinion, it could be partially due to neurodiversity within the population. The root cause could be that differing clusters of people have differing cognitive processing abilities.

For example, personally I despise commercials, because they break the flow, and force a context switch. Similarly, movement on the computer screen, whilst trying to read text is highly stressful to me. For this reason, I choose to install extensions (adblockers etc) to make sure that the screen is static, and only moves when I want it to.

Some people try to control their environment, others tend to adapt. Case in point, my oldest friend, is the opposite to me, and he doesn't mind adverts, or distractions, and actually prefers to study with music playing. I'm constantly amazed how others like him, manage to blend so efficiently into the environment.

If I am paying for a service, I prefer to have the option to not have ads. If you like ads, go for it. If PBS, HBO and other premium cable can be ad-free, Hulu should be to. The reason they are not, is because the three networks want more money on their content. However it is a short sighted strategy. (Disclaimer: I worked at Netflix a while back). The competitive advantages that Netflix has over everyone else are more than the technology, which is enormous in itself but they also have a great thought out business strategy. Reed Hastings is a true disrupter. He started out with building the technology first and having perfected that is now becoming a better HBO before HBO becomes a better Netflix. HBO has been making great strides on their technology but Netflix has a 3 year headstart on them and now has enough subscribers to compete for exclusive content. I as a consumer am hoping this fight lasts long so that we all benefit.

Isn't it obvious? I don't want my time I slot for entertainment interrupted with shit that doesn't entertain me.

I don't subscribe to TV or Hulu or anything but Netflix for this very reason. I would cancel Netflix if they inserted ads. I would rather pay $50 a month for Netflix if that meant being ad-free.

Commercials break the flow of the TV/movie that I'm watching. It's the same reason I don't watch the networks or cable TV. It's a Netflix life for me.

TV shows are written in "acts", they are designed to be broken up. Ads may be a horrible distruption (so I suggest muting them and blocking or averting from the images), but for a good TV experience, you should take a break for a minute to let the previous act sink in before watching the next act.

So what about when TV shows are released on DVD/BluRay? Are we are to guess when the act ends and the next one starts?

Sorry, but I don't buy this. An episode of, say, Breaking Bad does not need several-minute "act breaks" to work, so that something will "sink in".

There is no series in existence so intellectually or emotionally overwhelming that one needs ad breaks to deal with them.

(Though admittedly I frequently have to pause shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm because I need some fresh air after all the social embarrassment, but that's different.)

> People pay $100+ per month and seem to live through tens of minutes of commercials per show.

I suspect that most people here with cable don't watch any commercials, due to the magic of DVR. At least, that's true for me. I can't stand not being able to skip them, so I hate Hulu.

> I've never understood why people dislike the commercials so much.

Many people are making so much money that the cost of TV shows will never be an issue, if only someone were willing to sell it to them. They still only have 24 hours in a day, and they are being shown ads they have seen many times before, and those ads weren't interesting in the first place.

TV users can easily use a DVR to skip ads.

So yahoo must be thinking of getting a bargain licensing deal for 2-3 years, with eventually aiming for yahoo-backed content(like netflix and arrested development and firefly) and hulu owners must be looking at cutting losses.

Because they are losing money.

I think one potential positive outcome of all these acquisitions and rumours of acquisitions is that devs are once again seeing Yahoo as an interesting place to work. When you got so many in-shop startups working on interesting stuff, great things can happen beyond figuring out how all the individual acquisitions can fit together. Provided, of course, that Yahoo knows how to properly nurture the startups and their culture.

Whatever,management has not changed, the culture has not changed. Yahoo is just on a buying binge, until it runs out of cash. Mayer will have to fire half the current work force to make up for this or will be out in a year.

whoever buys Hulu is going to regret when they find out all the content deals goes up in smoke when the company change hands.

The content deals they currently have in place are so one-sided that there little to be gained by owning Hulu. Their contracts are basically, you get a license to the content, but 95% of any revenues you generate must be given to the content partners.

The whole point of Hulu was to stop piracy and return any cash generated to the content providers, not to be a profitable ongoing business. I don't even know what it means to buy a company that must funnel all revenues to content providers. It seems like Yahoo is bidding on something they won't actually control.

Yeah. Hulu is 100% a creature of the content owners. It's not a business. What would anybody be buying? The brand?

An "app" that's preinstalled or readily accessible on essentially every consumer device that does VoD? The number of those I can think of fits on one hand with a couple of fingers cut off.

> What would anybody be buying? The brand?

And a viable competitor to YouTube's new paid subscription service. UGC was the big thing in video since YouTube launched, but the real revenue generator could be paid subscriptions, and that market is wide-open. Hulu doesn't -have- to be big studios.

Presumably the users.

The advertising stream? I've never seen Hulu but there would be a lot of chances to show ads on it I'd imagine.

And yahoo is a company with alot of add inventory!

Of course, the whole point is that most of the revenue from the ads goes to the content providers, not to Hulu.

Still, you can imagine a scenario where Yahoo signs an ad deal with say General Motors for an overall package for all their properties, and then throws in Hulu as a bonus.

Keep the ad rates at Hulu at whatever minimum is written into the content deals, but use that as a bonus/loss leader for the real money that's allocated to advertising on the other Yahoo properties.

Might work.

Maybe they want to own it so they can get exclusive control over the ads. The platform really allows many of the kinds of ad revenues Youtube can generate, so could be a sweet deal for both content owners and Yahoo.

Since some might not be aware and since you didn't explicitly state it, Hulu right now is owned by Disney (which owns ABC), Fox, and NBC Universal, which produce a majority of the content on the service.

So while what you said may be true in general, it seems especially likely in this case.

Hulu is only as valuable as it's content deals. They will definitely be written into acquisition deal, no one in there right mind would by them without some assurance from the content owners that said content will continue to come. This is especially true when the content owners own the site!

That's why Google didn't want it, even though they were willing to pay twice as much as Yahoo and Amazon the last time around. But the networks wouldn't give them the contract length they wanted.

An agreement to maintain licenses for a few years will be part of the sale, but it does mean that the buyer will have a limited amount of time to make Hulu licenses indispensable to the former owners.

What makes you think that Yahoo didn't look into this?

This would be the first thing anyone acquiring Hulu would look at.

First Marissa buys Geocities and now she's making a play for Broadcast.com.

Out of all the names on that list William Morris Endeavor is the most surprising.

The agency model in Hollywood will eventually fade away because middle men don't offer as much utility as they once did when information wasn't so readily available.

It's surprising to see any of the major agencies waking up to this idea and acting on it.

If WME wins the bid we could see some interesting changes in the entertainment industry.

If actors, writers and directors (talent) are only a single step away from creating content in an environment where distribution has very low variable cost then we could see a boom of high quality independent films and shows. Think House of Cards (Netflix US) on a more frequent basis.

The agencies have been awake to this idea for quite a while now. WME and CAA have tentacles everywhere these days.

In the case of WME, they are 1/3rd owned by Silver Lake, so some sophistication in this area isn't surprising:


I don't know about WME, but CAA also has a small venture arm.

I used to work at CAA and there are a few agents aware of a bleak future for the agency model but to be honest no one wants to face the music over there. Their investment arm is for tech and entertainment startups, I doubt they would use it for Hulu. A Hulu acquisition would require their Silverlake equivalent, TPG. I'm all for it, but trust me when I tell you that I doubt CAA will put a bid in on this.

They are so far ahead #1 that they can't see it. It's a classic innovators dilemma problem.

Yahoo is the new Lycos. Lol. They are just buying a lot of stuff wihout a strategy and focus.

"In 2011, Hulu’s owners put the company up for sale and were looking for a bid of at least $2 billion; in exchange, they would offer content licenses that would run for two to three years."

Given that Hulu is now owned by the folks who license its content, any new buyer/owner can expect to pay astronomically more (think of what happens to Netflix every few years as they license content) or lose access to content every few years. Essentially, the owners would sell you the company and retain the option to put you out of business. It's a really bad deal.

well some people callit genius , go figure ...

Can someone tell me where Yahoo gets all this money from? It's not like they have pockets as deep as Facebook or Microsoft! Although I believe I do understand part of their strategy (having a foot in every type of medium), I have concerns about how they will integrate all this content and users into the Yahoo ecosystem. It is certainly not going to be easy work and the acquisition is the most straightforward bit. I really don't know what to think about this move. It seems a bit premature though.

Back in the day, they bought 40% of Alibaba, which has done VERY well. Selling back this stake has raised a lot of money.

I see a lot of people down the thread complaining about advertising and saying how it has become a normalized part of the experience.

I tried scanning the thread, but ironically more knowledgeable people have not mentioned cable television did not originally have ads; at least one of my parents said this was the appeal of premium cable at its inception. Wikipedia kind of confirms this in several places, but does not discuss the history of ads on cable TV specifically, which I would want to read more about.


So, keep in mind it is the lazy or indifferent among us who let them get on cable in the first place, so surprise surprise Hulu and other content providers are not going to diverge from the inertia of greediness set by their industry decades ago.

Also, not to defend Hulu, but they tried a lot of experimenting with fronting the ads in blocks so you can watch shows interrupted. I respected they made an effort, and they need to show with ad revenue and subscriptions (just like cable companies and satellite providers before them) they can use these models on the web to turn a profit. I actually considered Hulu subscription, even if it is garbage, because supporting legit streaming content in any form is the only way to drive it home to these morons in the entertainment industry that I want internet-based services, not DVDs, movie theaters, set-top boxes with encryption cards, etc.

Ok - at this point I'm wondering just how much Yahoo thinks it can swallow as a company. Tumblr -by itself - is going to take months to integrate into the Yahoo ecosystem. And now they want Hulu? I'm really wondering if they are biting off more then they can chew.

I think this is a smart buy. Buying netflix would be stupidly expensive, but buying Hulu and changing it to out-netflix netflix could be a really good play to pick up a platform fairly cheaply and run with it. The question is whether or not Yahoo! has the dynamism to do that, and I'm not sure anyone other than Marissa Mayer has the answer, if her.

Here in the UK, iPlayer dominates the online market. If she can come with a paid for equivalent getting things like Game of Thrones and original content on the level of house of cards, Yahoo could really challenge that.

The UK market is probably one of the most 'advanced' in terms of online viewing of TV and movies (thanks in large part to the popularity of the iPlayer).

There's a mix of things; multi-platform free VoD (iPlayer, 4oD, ITV), multi-platform subscription VoD (Netflix, Blinkbox, Lovefilm), subscription live stuff (Sky).

I would credit the BBC with spurring on this competition - they've expanded the mindshare for these kind of products with everyday people probably more than any other company. They're not really competing with the other players in the UK, though.

A new player would be competing with the likes of Sky (who own the rights to a load of premium stuff, which wouldn't be up for grabs for a long time, and when it is, would be fought for). Netflix has this problem right now with movie and TV rights.

There is a strategy behind this - Tumblr, now Hulu. She is acquiring content generating properties. Whether it will succeed or not remains to be seen, but kudos to her for trying!

To those who say it has been tried before by other CEOs: Flickr and Delicious generate pictures and bookmarks. Pictures and bookmarks have pathetic monetization rates, compared to articles/blog posts. With Hulu, it gets better - awesome paid subscription rates, along with monetization via advertising.

Yahoo is trying to acquire so many companies, I fear they are only going to run into culture problems as they begin to assimilate them into the parent company over time.

Just look at AOL as the model company that did this in the late 90s and early 2000s. They broke so many companies they acquired and it only hurt AOL.

Google and Facebook have been successful at it because they essentially used it as a way to hire smart people who wouldn't have interviewed with them.

My two biggest complaints re: Hulu are

1) "web only" content licenses. Nevermind that they really mean "PC only", it's a confusing user experience to pay for a service and have content selectively unavailable. I think that this is mostly Fox's fault.

2) choppy ad serving. Video serves very consistently, but ads are prone to pausing, stuttering and other buggy behavior.

I hope they buy it and open it for international users as well, it's a pity right now it only works in the US and you have to resort to tricks to access it from outside the US (for those interested here's a chrome add-on that lets you access it from outside the US - 'Media Hint').

I don't really understand how this would work because I thought the secret sauce of Hulu was that the networks owned Hulu, so they allowed their content to be on Hulu. If Yahoo buys Hulu, do they still get the network content?

Hulu has too many vowels to be a Yahoo acquisition. It just can't happen.

y is a vowel sometimes ;)

Looks like Marisa is following the Google recipe. Blogs, Videos, Photos (improving flickr), now they just need a real mobile product and a social network.

60% of google's revenue comes from search. You can't be google without the golden hen and yahoo doesn't have search.

Content discovery is moving away from search. If anyone would know that it would be Marisa. Perhaps she is positioning the company for 2-3 years down the road. Which means she needs more social component to yahoo beyond tumblr.

What's the value of Hulu to Yahoo besides trying to buy itself into the cool kids club? What is Yahoo these days anyways? Search? Content aggregation?

Yahoo is its Alibaba stake. No more, no less.

I think Vimeo might be better acquisition than Hulu.

Agree. It seems much more complementary to Flickr, and avoids all of the negotiation with the networks that any deal with Hulu would entail.

This article is a leak, the question is by whom, and to what purpose. The cynic in me says that Yahoo made some lowball offer and Hulu leaked it to try to drum up more interest.

Another example of acquisition frenzy by Marissa Mayer...already priced in, especially in this market of asset inflation.

If yahoo makes it back to the top, it will be a coup of sorts.

I might be rushing it a bit, but we need competition at the top!

Marissa Meyer sure likes shopping.

Nominated as HN's best/worst comment of the day. http://on.fb.me/10Yo7An

Which follows from the axiom "women be shopping".

Seems yahoo and Google are competing to be the ne AOL.

Yahoo! is showing us what a new media company is.

Seems the new CEO is hard at work

"Yahulu", then.

I tried Hulu multiple times with their free month offers. It sucked so bad that I canceled before I had to pay for a subscription. I'm sure people love Hulu, but I am definitely not one of them.

It burns me to pay a subscription and still have to watch advertisements.

It burns me even more that the ads are so repetitive.

How is that any different than cable/satellite?

Having access to the Criterion Collection is the only reason I pay for Hulu. More than worth the price there alone.

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