Will the Comcast-NBC Merger Kill Hulu?

FCC set to approve partnership, but with conditions that could cripple the streaming video website

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The FCC is finally set to sign off on Comcast's quasi-takeover of NBC Universal. Final approval of the deal, however, is still contingent on NBC television programming being made available to Comcast's web competitors. This could be bad news for video streaming website Hulu, which enjoys exclusive web broadcast rights to NBC, ABC, and FOX programming. (Not surprising, considered the website was a joint venture between those networks' respective parent companies.) Can the popular video service survive the loss of NBC, or will the dominoes begin to tumble? A sampling of theories from around the web:

  • Tough Break  Yes, concedes Business Insider's Henry Blodgett, people can also watch original programming on the networks' own websites, but Hulu has "benefited greatly from having semi-exclusive access to its partners' shows." Without that edge, they are just like everybody else. "If YouTube, Yahoo and AOL and others can all license The Office on the same terms that Hulu does, there won't be as much reason for people to go to Hulu, and Hulu's revenue will get clocked."
  • Shades Of Grey  Media Memo's Peter Kafka says it is still unclear what the proposed rules are intended to do. Kafka sees two possibilities. Either the FCC "wants to make sure that NBC doesn't prevent Hulu from syndicating its content out to third-party sites, as it's already doing with Yahoo, AOL and Comcast" or "the FCC is telling NBC that it has to offer its shows to other Web sites." The latter scenario, Kafka believes, would be "devastating news" for the company's long term survival
  • Fall Guy  If gutting Hulu is what it takes to pull off a $13.75 billion deal, Comcast and NBC Universal will do it, writes Daily Finance's Jonathan Berr. Berr notes that "extracting vague promises of good behavior is not enough," considering how far Comcast's media tentacles extend. "The cable giant must agree to make specific and verifiable commitments not to abuse its market position." As a result, Hulu could end up as collateral damage.
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