updated 08:35 am EST, Fri December 24, 2010
Comcast-NBC merger may force non-exclusive
The FCC's leaked Comcast-NBC merger terms may host Hulu its main advantage, an early analysis brought out. Hulu's requirements for semi-exclusivity with free content, where studios can only either offer it on Hulu or on their own sites, might be challenged by an FCC mandate to syndicate video to competitors. NBC might have to not only allow syndication to outside providers but might have to do so outside of Hulu, possibly depriving any chance for Hulu to do so itself.
As the details aren't official, it's unknown if the rule would go so far. FCC officials might only want to require that Comcast impose no terms of its own on Hulu, allowing its outside partner to make deals that involve NBC shows, AllThingsD speculated. Such a deal might not necessarily preclude NBC making deals of its own.
Publicly, the FCC has only said it would put "tough" conditions on the Comcast-NBC merger if it was approved in a vote early next year. The deal could nonetheless give websites like AOL and Yahoo the option of negotiating with NBC directly but would also prevent a merged Comcast-NBC from giving Hulu any exclusives and withholding its material from other services, including iTunes, Netflix and similar alternatives.
The rules as slipped out wouldn't require the merged company to offer video at all costs and would still let it avoid deals where it can reasonably say the prices are unreasonable. NBC has stayed off of the new Apple TV's episode rental system under the guise that it isn't profitable, but Apple might use the FCC rules to challenge that claim.