Hulu's UK Launch Pushed Back to Early 2010, Due to Slow Negotiations with UK Broadcasters
--Said to Be Closest to Deal with ITV
According to a report Monday in the UK newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, Hulu, the free, ad-supported broadband video venture co-owned by The Walt Disney Company (ABC), NBC Universal and News Corp. (Fox), will not launch in the UK until early next year. It had previously been expected to roll out the UK version of its service next month. According to the newspaper, the company, which is seeking to land programming agreements with major UK broadcasters in exchange for an equity stake in the UK version of its service, is close to signing a "semi-exclusive" deal with terrestrial broadcaster, ITV, but has not succeeded in securing any other in-country content partners, despite having also been in talks with BBC Worldwide (the corporation's commercial arm) and Channel 4 for close to six months. "Once ITV is on board, Hulu only needs one more UK broadcaster's content for launch," an anonymous source, described by the Telegraph as "close to the US company," told the newspaper. "It will probably go after a deal with BBC Worldwide, which is not signing exclusive arrangements with anyone and then secure some content from its parent companies. This will give it enough material to launch and probably take three to four months after its first deal with ITV. So you're hopefully looking at a January 2010 launch."
The Telegraph also reported that Hulu has yet to present the UK version of its service to major media agencies: "We haven't heard anything yet and we are one of the biggest groups responsible for planning and trading adverts in the digital space," Alex Randall, group trading director for digital media agency, Isobar, told the newspaper. "To my knowledge Hulu has no presence in the marketplace or a dedicated UK sales team in place. It will need to present to the media agencies at least two months in advance of launch, in order to get on our clients' schedules."
According to a separate report in the Telegraph, Hulu's pending deal with ITV will designate it as the only third-party Web site allowed to show programs, such as "Coronation Street" and "Dancing on Ice," that have been produced for the broadcaster by its in-house ITV Productions unit (note: the deal will apparently not cover programs produced by ITV Productions for other channels). The broadcaster will continue to offer programs covered by the deal on its own catch-up service, the ITV Player, the Telegraph reported, and will also be free to make deals for its other programs with rival broadband video companies such as MSN Video and YouTube. The newspaper also reported that Channel 4 is close to signing a non-exclusive broadband video deal with YouTube that would see it offering full-length programming on the latter's service. YouTube is believed to be in similar talks with BBC Worldwide and ITV.