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News Analysis
Will Dish Do the Hulu?
By Swanni

Washington, D.C. (September 28, 2011) -- Dish Network and Google appear to be in the lead in the auction to buy program streamer Hulu, according to multiple news sources. While Google's motivations are somewhat fuzzy, Dish could use Hulu's programming library to dramatically beef up its new streaming plan under the Blockbuster brand.

In fact, speculation is rampant that the Hulu situation is why Dish decided last week not to unveil a separate streaming plan to compete directly with Netflix; the company wantt to see the results of the Hulu auction before going that route. (The new streaming plan under Blockbuster's name, which officially launches October 1, will initially require a subscription to Dish Network.)

Hulu, which now has more than one million paying customers, boasts content from more than 260 programmers including NBC, Fox and ABC. Dish said last week the new Blockbuster streaming plan would include 3,000 TV shows, which is fewer than Netflix, But the addition of Hulu would put Blockbuster's streaming service on par with Netflix.

Despite those rosy scenario, Dish, however, must first buy Hulu in the auction and news reports are sketchy on that possibility despite Dish bidding a reported $1.9 billion. Dish was actually outbid by Google, according to reports, but Dish's offer reportedly carries fewer restrictions which could persuade Hulu's owners to pick the satcaster. (Earlier bidders such as DIRECTV and Amazon are thought to now be out of the running.

But there are other reports suggesting that Hulu's ownership group, which consists of NBC Universal, Walt Disney and News Corp., is not pleased with the bids and may not sell at all. And Dish itself may be put off that some Hulu program contracts will expire in just a few years, which could require Dish, or another owner, to pay handsomely to renew the deals.

So, bottom line: If Dish buys Hulu, it could dramatically change the streaming business. If another company buys Hulu, the business could still take an interesting turn, depending upon what Hulu's new owners have in mind.

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Phillip Swann is president and publisher of TVPredictions.com. He has been quoted in dozens of publications and broadcast outlets, including CNN, Fox News, Inside Edition, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Financial Times, The Associated Press and The Hollywood Reporter. He can be reached at swann@tvpredictions.com or at 703-505-3064.

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