This story was written by Robert Andrews.
Updated It’s been 10 months since we first learned NBC, News Corp (NYSE: NWS) and Disney’s U.S. TV site Hulu wanted to open up shop in Britain - but still there’s no sign of it actually being ready to pounce. The venture may have rights to show some UK content across the pond but, despite starting negotiations here in February, it’s still lacking the shows it needs for a truly indigenous service.
That may or may not be about to change, depending on which Telegraph.co.uk story you read. Monday afternoon, it reported a deal that would make Hulu the exclusive third-party distributor for ITV’s in-house productions is just “weeks away”. Half an hour later, it reported an unnamed source’s gut feeling the launch has been delayed to January due to the lack of partnerships. In May, Telegraph.co.uk said Hulu wanted to launch here in September. An ITV (LSE: ITV) spokesperson told paidContent:UK it’s all “speculation”.
One thing’s for sure - Hulu is taking its own sweet time. paidContent:UK understands ITV, and perhaps the other main broadcasters, have been offered equity in a UK venture. BBC Worldwide’s signature shouldn’t be hard to get in theory, though it seems more interested in inking pay-per-view and overseas syndication deals rather than free-to-view. Channel 4 is busy developing its YouTube relationship and 4oD. And BSkyB (NYSE: BSY) likes to own its own platform.
Late last year, Hulu, in private, was holding off on UK ambitions until the completion of the Competition Commission’s investigation in to the proposed BBCWW/ITV/C4 VOD JV Project Kangaroo. The outlawing of Kangaroo in February cleared the way for an alternative provider. But, whilst Kangaroo never got off its feet, the main UK broadcasters’ desire to work together appears undiminished…
The Project Canvas proposal may be for the TV set and not the desktop, but will ultimately provide a single IPTV VOD gateway, owned by the broadcasters themselves. Not just that, but radio mast company Arqiva has bought Kangaroo’s remains and is planning its own web VOD service - perhaps rivaling Hulu, and, to all intents and purposes, launching Kangaroo after all.
Update: Staci adds: Of course, you can’t delay something that hasn’t been planned. I reported back in May that Hulu wasn’t planning a September launch. I can add now that while something may be ready by January, that’s not a target either at the point. Hulu’s Johannes Larcher continues to have discussions with usual suspects ITV, Channel 4, BBC, et al—someone familiar with the situation calls them “healthy conversations”—and a UK version is expected to happen but other people seem to be a lot more obsessed with setting dates than Hulu.
By Robert Andrews