Hulu is no longer up for sale, after 21st Century Fox, NBC Universal and Walt Disney Co. said Friday that they will maintain ownership of the platform after all. They had received bids reaching about $1 billion but struggled to find the right balance between promising enough content after a sale and protecting their own traditional businesses.
The three media conglomerates will also provide cash infusion of $750 million in order to propel future growth, they said in a statement.
"We believe the best path forward for Hulu is a meaningful recapitalization that will further accelerate its growth under the current ownership structure," Chase Carey, president-chief operating officer of 21st Century Fox, said in a statement. "We had meaningful conversations with a number of potential partners and buyers, each with impressive plans and offers to match, but with 21st Century Fox and Disney fully aligned in our collective vision and goals for the business, we decided to continue to empower the Hulu team in this fashion to continue the incredible momentum they've built over the last few years."
DirecTV, Time Warner Cable and a combined bid from AT&T and Chernin Group were the remaining contenders after weeks of offers from potential buyers that included Yahoo, Guggenheim Digital and investment firm KKR, according to reports.
But the sellers were demanding a number of restrictions on the content they would provide Hulu, an effort to shelter their own businesses that may have nonetheless made cashing out of Hulu more difficult now.
Ad buyers had hoped the terms of any sale wouldn't undercut the platform's appeal to consumers. "I'd want to make sure the level of content remains the same and that really they didn't change their consumer face," said Rob D'Asaro, head of Omnicom cross-platform buying group OMD Stream, in an interview before the owners called off the auction. "The key piece to Hulu is their content."
Hulu has annual revenue of $690 million and more than 4 million paying customers, according to the company.
This is the second time Hulu has backed away from a potential acquisition: It terminated another sale process in 2011.
Contributing: Tim Peterson and Bloomberg News