Via the news wires this morning… Vivendi S.A. is now poised to give their blessing to one of the biggest media deals this decade: a merger of Comcast with NBC/Universal that would create a joint venture largely controlled by Comcast. What could this mean for VOD fans of online content that is now free for the viewing?
Look for Comcast to possibly put the brakes on Hulu as soon as the deal with GE is complete (and all regulatory issues are cleared). This could take six months to a year, but Hulu is probably living on borrowed time as a free, advertiser supported service… that is, if Comcast doesn’t decide to yank all NBC content completely off the service, leaving Hulu devoid of some of the most popular entertainment it has.
Comcast has founding stake in Fancast, Hulu’s competition, which may develop into a subscription-only service. They are also developing another subscription-based online service known as TV Everywhere, which the other cable giants are looking at for saving the industry from the concept of “free.” It remains to be seen if the other players supporting Hulu—Disney/ABC and Fox and Showtime Networks (which is part of CBS Corp. and might favor Fancast for online delivery of content) —would remain committed to the service if Comcast makes such a move.
Unless Hulu is eventually merged with Fancast or follows the cable industry’s preferred subscription-only model, it could be a rather quiet place to surf over to for VOD. If Comcast does follow through in favoring its subscription cable services, this could mean that programming from the USA Network, Bravo, SyFy, Style, E!, Versus, and Oxygen, among others, might disappear. As this is a developing situation and story, we’re sure to hear a lot more as the sale of NBC/Universal to Comcast becomes a reality.