First read: Apple joins Hulu hoop; Google’s got game

Top of the Morning The Hulu-sale rumor du jour has Apple coming in to kick the tires. According to Bloomberg, Jobs and Co. are thinking of making a bid for the video streaming service, although no price was mentioned.

With $76 billion in cash and equivalents on its balance sheet, even a deal at the high-end of the reported Hulu price range would be walking-around money for Apple. But it would certainly be out of character. Apple has generally eschewed big-money acquisitions, although it did recently put up $2.6 billion to be part of the consortium that now controls the Nortel patents.

But why Hulu? It’s no secret that Apple has been interested in assembling some sort of subscription video service for its iTunes platform, and Hulu Plus might be a good starting point. But color me skeptical.

Hulu Plus is already available through the App Store so buying it wouldn’t really add much new value to the platform. Moreover, Hulu’s broad content syndication strategy would be an odd fit with Apple’s typical proprietary, walled-garden approach.

If there’s anything to the report (as opposed to a strategic leak from someone at J.P. Morgan trying to stoke the bidding for Hulu) it wouldn’t surprise us if it has a technology angle, perhaps one related to Hulu’s pretty slick ad-targeting system (see video of Hulu CEO Jason Kilar’s keynote at last year’s NewTeeVee Live conference here).

Apple has bought content services before to get its hands on their technology, most recently with the acquisition of Lala. The Lala music streaming service is now gone, but its cloud content management software lives on in Apple’s iCloud platform. Could a similar fate await Hulu?

Google eyeing social games: Google+ has zoomed out to 10 million registered users and up to 20 million unique visitors since its launch three weeks ago, according to comScore, which leaves it only about 740 million users shy of Facebook’s total.

Facebook shouldn’t rest easy, however. According to Tricia Duryee at AllThingsD this morning, Google is getting close to launching a social game network for Google+, taking aim directly at Facebook’s most lucrative franchises. Google, of course, is a major investor in Zynga, which gives it a front-row seat to Facebook’s games strategy.

 

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