The gradual transformation of Yahoo, led by former Googler Marissa Mayer's aggressive software acquisitions and internal reorganisation strategy, appears to be moving ahead at full steam. Now, according to a new report, the company is in talks to snap up online video site Hulu.
Initially launched as a free, advertiser-supported video aggregation website in 2007, today Hulu's premium service, Hulu Plus, has garnered well over 4 million paid subscribers, in addition to those who watch for free. While that trails far behind the roughly 36 million Netflix streaming subsribers, it nevertheless makes Hulu a viable player in the race to monetise online video, a strategy even the leading video site, YouTube, is reportedly only just beginning to consider.
The news of Yahoo's interest in Hulu comes via All Things D in a report that claims Mayer met with the company's executives recently in what is termed as a "getting-to-know-you" meeting. According to the site's sources, no firm bid has been made for the video site, but the meeting itself is a hint at Mayer's interest, particularly in light of Yahoo's recent failed bid to acquire another high-profile video site, Dailymotion. Yahoo's bid to purchase a majority stake in the France-based site, reportedly worth roughly $300 million (£193 million), was ultimately blocked by the French government.
Yahoo already boasts a significant online video audience of its own at about 55 million unique viewers per month, second only to YouTube's 150 million unique viewers, according to comScore. But acquiring a rapidly growing online video subscription service like Hulu could supercharge Yahoo's recent efforts to establish more major video content partnerships.
Neither Yahoo nor Hulu has commented on the rumours.
Rumours about Yahoo and Hulu, however, have been making the rounds since June 2011, when it was reported that Yahoo had approached Hulu with an unsolicited offer. Over the course of the next few months, various tech companies were mentioned as potential buyers including Google, Yahoo, Amazon, DirecTV, and others.
By October, however, Hulu pulled the plug on sales proceedings. Joint owners News Corp., Comcast, and Disney released a joint statement confirming that they would not sell Hulu. "Since Hulu holds a unique and compelling strategic value to each of its owners, we have terminated the sale process and look forward to working together to continue mapping out its path to even greater success," they said at the time. "Our focus now rests solely on ensuring that our efforts as owners contribute in a meaningful way to the exciting future that lies ahead for Hulu."
But earlier this year, CEO Jason Kilar announced plans to step down in the first quarter, signalling a possible shift for the company.