Despite its success in the United States, the online video site Hulu will not launch in the United Kingdom after failing to come to terms with British broadcasters who have their own online video plans. After a year of negotiations, it is reported that the joint venture between News Corporation, NBC Universal and ABC Disney has postponed any plans to launch in Britain, where broadcasters are unwilling to offer programming to the online platform on an exclusive basis or allow it to sell advertising around their programmes.
The Telegraph reports that members of the Hulu team have said the service will not launch there in the foreseeable future because they have been unable to get “any traction in the British TV market” and the “market does not match their business expectations”. Citing an unnamed source close to Hulu, it said the company remains hopeful that it may have a presence in the country in the future “when the broadcasters realise they need to be more flexible with their business models.”
ITV, the main commercial network, which had been in discussions about an exclusive deal with Hulu, is instead focussing on its own online service and its proposed Canvas platform.
Channel Four and Five meanwhile make their programmes available on their own portals, as well as syndicated on YouTube and SeeSaw.
It means that viewers will still need to use multiple services to access programmes from British broadcasters. They will not be able to access American programmes on Hulu where the international rights have been sold to such broadcasters.
The United Kingdom is a major market for the distribution of American programmes and the production studios currently earn far more from British broadcasters than they could expect to receive through online distribution.
Although it is currently a commercial decision whether British broadcasters should make programming available through other aggregation platforms, it raises questions of competition.
When British broadcasters were blocked by the Competition Commission from creating their own joint venture, known as Project Kangaroo, some said they feared foreign services like Hulu would move in.
The same British broadcasters are now engaged in attempting to create a new platform, known as Project Canvas.
Some might question whether Hulu took the best approach with British broadcasters, apparently insisting on exclusive distribution and the right to sell advertising. Time will tell whether it is broadcasters or aggregators that will need to be more flexible with their business models.