Although nothing has been officially announced, reports have video streaming site Hulu talking with investment banks about a possible initial public offering that would take the company public—and generate a cash infusion as large as $2 billion. However, some industry watchers are skeptical Hulu could raise that kind of money…and the move may signal some of Hulu’s founders are getting cold feet.
An initial public offering would be a way for Hulu to raise financing without having to go to its owners to ask for additional cash. Hulu reported revenues of $100 million in 2009 and said it expected to pass that mark in 2010 during the summer, meaning the company might be looking at revenues of $200 million for 2010. A stock offering could raise cash to help Hulu continue to roll out its Hulu Plus $9.99-per-month subscription service and compete more meaningfully with the likes of Netflix, Amazon-on-Demand, and services like CinemaNow. Currently, Hulu Plus is available only on the iPad, PS3, and selected Samsung Blu-ray players. The company plans to launch the service for Xbox Live and other platforms in the coming months.
Hulu has risen from an improbable joint venture between News Corp, NBC Universal, and Providence Equity to become one of the premiere sites for streaming television shows and movies on the Internet—popular enough that media giant Disney bought into Hulu back in 2009. However, some industry watchers have noted the IPO might be an excuse for one or more of Hulu’s owners to get out of the operation. The most likely departure would be Providence Equity Partners, which is not a media company itself and holds a 10 percent stake in Hulu. (When Providence bought in back in 2007, its $100 million stake reflected a perceived $1 billion value for Hulu.) However, NBC Universal is still in the process of completing its acquisition by Comcast, which—as the U.S.’s largest cable operator and ISP—is already offering competing streaming services to cable subscribers via its Xfinity brand.
Reports of a possible Hulu IPO were first published by The New York Times (subscription required).