Free Video on Demand service via the web (Web-VOD) may take a huge popularity hit should Comcast Corp. move forward in a possible merger of assets that includes NBC-Universal’s Bravo, SyFy (formerly SciFi) and Hulu.com properties.
Hulu.com, the streaming video website devoted to film and TV clips, is a joint venture initially developed by NBC and News Corp via Providence Equity Partners (a major stake holder). It was designed to be a direct shot across YouTube’s bow in the media piracy wars by presenting full episodes of recently aired and older content owned by NBC-Universal, News Corp (Fox/FX), and Disney-ABC.
With most cable companies viewing Hulu as a bottom-feeder for viewership eyeballs by offering free programing that the cable entities actually pay for, Comcast could be doing the other cable giants a favor by either quashing NBC’s content on Hulu (clips and full episodes of recently aired Saturday Night Live and The Office programming accounts for some of the most popular content on Hulu.com) or undermining the freebie venture altogether by transforming the site into a pay-per-use or subscription model (and knowing the cable companies love for an all-you-can-eat subscription model rather than an à la carte service, you can get an idea of which way they might lean).
Obviously, this depends on how much the other Hulu partners would fight back against Comcast should both the merger and Comcast’s interest in such a business model move forward, but a cable giant owning a major content provider doesn’t bode well for the nascent Web-VOD movement. The Los Angeles Times and other news outlets have plenty of speculation on what might happen… the L.A. Times article can be found here.