KKR, Yahoo and Silver Lake/WME join list of Hulu suitors

Alec Baldwin in a commercial for Hulu.
Alec Baldwin in a commercial for Hulu.

The list of potential suitors for Hulu keeps getting longer.

On Friday, Yahoo submitted a bid for the online video site co-owned by entertainment giants News Corp., Walt Disney Co. and Comcast Corp.

Also jumping into the fray are private equity firms KKR & Co. and Silver Lake Management, which is teaming up with the powerful Hollywood talent agency WME Entertainment. Silver Lake owns a minority stake in WME.

Silver Lake and KKR declined to comment on the matter. WME did not respond to a request for comment. Yahoo also declined to comment.


Others that have expressed interest in making a play for Hulu include Time Warner Cable, DirecTV, the Chernin Group and Guggenheim Digital Media, according to people familiar with the matter.

With revenues of almost $700 million and 4 million paying subscribers, the owners of Hulu are hoping for at least a $1-billion pay day from a sale. Last month, the Chernin Group submitted a more-than-$500-million bid, but the firm has since revised its offer.

Of course, given that Chernin Group principal Peter Chernin was an architect of Hulu when he was president of News Corp., he also has a better read than most when it comes to company’s financial prospects.

One of the key issues for any buyer will be locking in long-term rights to the programming on Hulu. If the current owners can’t guarantee access to programming beyond a couple of years, that could lower the price.

Not all the bidders may have the same agenda. The private equity firms may see a Netflix-like opportunity in Hulu, provided they’re willing to spend heavily to create original content.

For Yahoo, which earlier this week spent $1.1 billion to acquire the blogging site Tumblr, Hulu could become its YouTube and give it another platform to attract advertising revenue.

Pay-TV distributors DirecTV and Time Warner Cable see Hulu as a potential distribution system of the future and another way to protect the current pay-TV business.

Whether all three of Hulu’s owners will sell is also unknown. Walt Disney Co. and News Corp. have been at odds over a strategy for Hulu, a situation that is driving the sale. Comcast inherited its stake in Hulu when it acquired control of NBCUniversal. In return for regulatory approval of that deal, Comcast agreed to be a silent partner in Hulu. It cannot increase its stake but it also does not have to sell, even if the other two partners do.


If DirecTV or Time Warner Cable end up as a Hulu owner, Comcast may want to hold on to its stake as well given the implications such ownership could have for the pay-TV industry.

News of KKR’s and Silver Lake’s interest in Hulu was first reported by Bloomberg.

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