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Disney joins Hulu

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The Walt Disney Co. has agreed to join News Corp., NBC Universal and Providence Equity as a joint venture partner of online video site Hulu.

Disney will offer full-length episodes of its most popular prime-time shows from its ABC network, including ‘Lost,’ ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ and ‘Desperate Housewives,’ as well as such cable offerings such as ABC Family’s ‘Secret Life of the American Teenager’ and Disney Channel’s ‘Wizards of Waverly Place.’ It will also provide older episodes from ABC’s library, such as ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’ and ‘Dancing with the Stars.’

‘From our landmark iTunes deal to our pioneering decision to stream ad-supported shows on our ABC.com player, Disney has sought to meet the constantly evolving viewing habits of our consumers,’ Robert A. Iger, Disney’s president and chief executive, said in a statement. ‘Today’s Hulu announcement is the next extremely important step in that ongoing journey.’

Disney views the move as a way to reach a new audience that isn’t coming to the network’s own website. While the ABC.com website has attracted regular viewers of its shows, Hulu offers the opportunity to tap into a new group of viewers.

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Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Once a regulatory review is completed, Disney will gain three seats on the Hulu board, to be held by Iger; Anne Sweeney, president of Disney/ABC Television Group; and Kevin Mayer, executive vice president of corporate strategy and business development.

“At the end of the day, both Disney and Hulu needed each other,” said Tim Hanlon, managing director of
VivaKi Ventures, an investment arm of advertising giant Publicis.

“It’s very hard to be ubiquitous,” Hanlon said. “Disney ‘s ABC and ESPN has been among the most conservative media companies but even they recognized that they needed alternative distribution methods. We are in a world of distribution neutrality.”

-- Dawn C. Chmielewski


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