NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker is one of those old media bosses who likes to lament that analogue dollars translate into digital pennies. But not at this morning’s Digital Hollywood keynote in midtown Manhattan.
“I think we’re at digital dimes now,” Jeff said then.
The main reason for his optimism is Web TV site Hulu, a joint venture between NBC U and News Corp.
Jeff wouldn’t disclose Hulu’s revenues, but he said “It is well ahead of plan and something that will be an important contributor to our company for many years to come.”
We love Hulu as a service, but we’re not as optimistic about its business prospects.
We hear TV and film execs at News Corp. have been itching to kill that company’s involvement in the project for a while now.
That won’t happen because there’s private equity investment in Hulu, but now that News Corp. COO and Hulu-champion Peter Chernin is stepping down, sources close to News Corp. believe that the company will seek renew its soon-to-expire content licensing deals with Hulu at much tougher rates.
Even Zucker sounded like he thinks the content owners need to get a better deal, telling today’s crowd:
What we’ve lost in viewers and advertising dollars on the analogue side isn’t being made up for at all on the digital side. We want to find an economic model that makes sense.
That’s trouble for the startup with the evil plan to take over the world. Given that it foots the expensive hosting bills while passing on most of its revenues, Hulu’s prospects as an independent business were already dim. Even if Hulu’s a consumer success, old media execs sound like they want to make those prospects yet dimmer.
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