DAVID GREENE, host:
People who watch TV and movies on the Internet know that Hulu is one of the most popular websites. It's currently owned by several media companies, and they're looking to get rid of it. Some big tech guns, including names like Google and Amazon, are expressing interest in buying Hulu. But as NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports, nobody really knows what will happen to Hulu if it's sold.
ELIZABETH BLAIR: Hulu had hubris right from the start.
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Mr. ALEC BALDWIN (Actor): I'm Alec Baldwin, TV star.
BLAIR: Hulu launched this ad campaign during the 2009 Super Bowl.
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Mr. BALDWIN: Hulu beams TV directly to your portable computing devices, giving you more of the cerebral gelatinizing shows you want - anytime, anywhere, for free.
BLAIR: Content from big shows like "30 Rock," "American Idol," "Family Guy," was available for free. Then last year Hulu launched a paid service offering even more access, for 7.99 a month. It has, reportedly, nearly one million subscribers.
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Mr. SETH MACFARLANE (Actor): (as Peter Griffin) Oh, yeah. Oh, those are looking good. Yeah, that's what I'm talking about.
BLAIR: So why do its corporate owners want to sell it?
Mr. NICHOLAS CARLSON (Business Insider): Really, there's too many parents in this family.
BLAIR: Nicholas Carlson, deputy editor of Business Insider, says one problem is that Hulu's owners compete with each other. The owners include the three corporate parents of the major TV networks - ABC, NBC and Fox.
Mr. CARLSON: There were complaints a couple of years ago about Hulu sales people going out and pitching against ABC sales people, who also show video on Internet. And they're undercutting their prices.
BLAIR: And now is a very good time to sell Hulu since every major Internet provider wants to offer its consumers premium TV content that it can sell to advertisers. The price tag could be as much as $2 billion.
Unidentified Woman: You people have too much money.
BLAIR: So who are the bidders? There's Amazon. They want Hulu, says Carlson, because they'd like to beef up their current video business, and because...
Mr. CARLSON: Amazon is going to launch an iPad rival, a clone, so to speak, later this year or the beginning of next year. And I've heard that Amazon is thinking that a Hulu-branded tablet would be a great way to get consumers really excited.
BLAIR: The most powerful bidder, says Carlson, is Google.
Mr. CARLSON: Google just has so much cash in the bank right now.
BLAIR: And Google needs Hulu, because right now its video service is YouTube.
Mr. CARLSON: You know, birthday videos, videos of stunts...
Unidentified Man #1: Oh...
Unidentified Man #1: My God! Oh...
Mr. CARLSON: That stuff's very hard to sell advertising against.
BLAIR: Other bidders are believed to be Yahoo and Dish Network. So how might Hulu change if it's sold? Nobody on the outside really knows, but content is key. Marci Ryvicker is a senior analyst with Wells Fargo Securities.
Ms. MARCI RYVICKER (Wells Fargo Securities): Most of the content on Hulu is provided by the FOXs, ABCs and the NBCs.
BLAIR: And remember, they own Hulu.
Ms. RYVICKER: It is up to them upon a sale to either continue providing or not.
BLAIR: Ryvicker says without the shows, Hulu isn't worth much.
Ms. RYVICKER: No one's going to pay $2 billion for a company that won't guarantee a certain specific level of content, because, again, that's all that Hulu really provides.
BLAIR: But Hulu also provides this guy.
Unidentified Man #3: The following program is brought to you with limited commercial interruptions.
Mr. CARLSON: That's the Hulu guy.
BLAIR: Is he part of the deal?
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Mr. CARLSON: He better be or you're not getting your money worth.
BLAIR: Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.
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