updated 04:30 pm EDT, Tue September 6, 2011
Google may try for very special Hulu bid
Google's bid for Hulu may involve a much more elaborate prospect than anyone else, insiders gave out Tuesday. Amazon, Dish, and Yahoo are all offering conventional bids of up to $2 billion, but Google is now thought to have said "there's enough money" for a much more involved deal. Tips to AllThingsD didn't identify what the intentions were, but the amount was enough that Hulu would have normally thrown it out were it not for the cash involved.
The most probable intentions so far are either a longer-lasting content deal or wider-ranging access. Many anticipate any Hulu deal giving the winner access to content from three major TV studios for a few years but not necessarily changing how much viewers can see. A common complaint of Hulu has been the tendency of studios to suddenly pull shows, seasons, or whole episodes, with others not showing at all. Google may try for more consistent access or to get shows that might be held off of the store.
Google might end up being at loggerheads with content providers like Fox, which have been trying to force authentication for timely access to content that was previously available at the same time for everyone. The move has so far only triggered more piracy and might be something Google hopes to curb. Additional options are difficult to determine but could involve expanding free access or making free Hulu work on platforms like the Google TV.
The networks, which are backers in Hulu, might try to fight against a Google deal. They often interpret Internet video like YouTube as a threat to traditional business rather than the future and have often put hard limits on what they support to preserve cable and satellite ad revenue for slightly longer.
Hulu's decision on the first round of bidding is due this week and could see it either narrow down the field or pick an early winner.
A Google-owned Hulu could shift the balance in online video away from competitors like Netflix and iTunes as well as give Android, Chrome OS, and Google TV professional video content that they are still often denied. Android Market now has a videos service with a limited amount of TV but is based on the older pay-per-show model rather than subscriptions or free streaming. Hulu has support for Google's existing platforms but leans more heavily towards iOS and competitors.