Hulu sale hits turbulence; are owners up in the air about moving forward?

Yahoo's change in command, low-ball bids from buyers and content-rights issues have combined to cast a pall over the auction for content aggregator Hulu.

Reuters this week reported that the auction could go off the tracks completely, especially since the owners, Comcast's (Nasdaq: CMCSA) NBCUniversal, News Corp. (Nasdaq: NWSA) and Disney (NYSE: DIS), can't seem to get on the same page about whether they actually want to sell the company.

Only Disney CEO Bob Iger has been adamant about the sale, with News Corp. COO Chase Carey last month saying a sale might not be in the cards.

Earlier this month, initial bids, rumored to be between $500 million and $2 billion came in from potential buyers, with Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) and Dish Network (Nasdaq: DISH) being among the frontrunners.

This week could bring in more bids, and their values could determine whether the auction goes forward. Sources told Reuters that Hulu's owners increasingly are looking at alternatives to the sale, unless they receive a strong enough offer.

What buyers get from Hulu remains a major question.

As CBS chief exec Les Moonves said: "What are (buyers) getting and how long are they getting it? Are they buying two years of programs for $2 billion? I don't know. I shouldn't say more, I'll get in trouble."

CBS is the only major network that doesn't include its content on Hulu.

NBCUniversal also muddied the waters a bit last week when it launched a new iPad and iPhone app that gives users access to its content for free.

"It gets more challenging to push through the Hulu sale, given what NBC just did," said BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield.

For more:
- see this Reuters report

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