Fox lifts curtain on sham Hulu sale

Online Video With Fox’s announcement yesterday that it will put new episodes of current-season shows behind an authentication wall I think we can fairly assume the sale of Hulu is now off, assuming it was ever really on. Whatever valuation a prospective buyer might have assigned to Hulu a week ago just went down significantly. Most of Hulu’s revenue comes from the sale of advertising in the shows it streams and the new authentication wall will have an immediate negative impact on viewership. And fewer viewers means fewer ad dollars

The only question now is whether Hulu can continue as a going concern. Given the recent rumblings that Hulu’s other network partners were mulling a move to an authentication window Fox’s announcement is likely just the first. ABC will probably be next to go; NBC is somewhat constrained by the merger conditions of the Comcast deal to following the lead of the other networks in matters related to Hulu. When all three go, and Hulu no longer has next-day access to its most popular content (save for subscribers to Hulu Plus) the jig will be up. Read More »

Netflix Facebook integration gets Borked

Legislation We’ll have more on Netflix’s Q2 earnings report shortly, but one odd item bears flagging because, unless you’ve been around the video business for long time, you might not get the reference.

According to CEO Reed Hastings’ shareholder letter, Netflix plans to introduce its long-planned Facebook integration shortly, probably before its next earnings announcement. But the integration will only be available to users in Canada and Latin America initially:

At this point, we plan to launch this initiative only in Canada and Latin America, as the VPPA (VideoPrivacy Protection Act) discourages us from launching our Facebook integration domestically. Under the VPPA, it is ambiguous when and how a user can give permission for his or her video viewing data to be shared. Read More »

EU wants to knock down digital borders

Streaming Video The European Commission on Wednesday kicked off a “consultation” (something like an agency rulemaking in the U.S.) that could fundamentally transform long-standing elements of film financing on the Old Continent.

The goal of the consultation is to gather views on “how Europe can seize these opportunities [for creators and distributors] and move towards a digital single market,” according to the press release. The comment period runs through mid-November, after which the commission will assess the need for Europe-wide legislation and make specific recommendations to the European Parliament. Read More »

Netflix no longer neutral

Net Neutrality Not sure if the timing was intentional, but it is certainly fitting that Netflix general counsel David Hyman’s very-pointed op-ed on usage-based bandwidth pricing should appear in the Wall Street Journal on day after the FCC finally delivered its long-delayed net neutrality rules to the White House Office of Management and Budget, the final step before their official publication in the Federal Register.

Once published in the Register, the rules become legally effective, which in this case means they become legally contestable in court. Verizon has already tried to challenge the rules once, based on the FCC’s initial rulemaking vote, but was rebuffed by the court as premature. That, and perhaps other litigation, is no doubt ready to go the moment the rules come off the presses at the Government Printing Office. Read More »

Trans-Atlantic response to online piracy? (Updated)

Copyright Content owners should probably keep this in the wishful-thinking file for now but British communications minister Ed Vaizey hinted strongly this week at an emerging trans-Atlantic alliance to recruit ISPs more fully into the battle against online piracy.

Speaking at the Intellect Consumer Electronics conference in London, Vaizey called reports that a deal was in the works in the U.S. between leading ISPs and copyright owners to adopt a voluntary system of graduated response to online infringement a potential “game-changer” that could break a deadlock in similar talks underway in the U.K. Read More »

What if no one buys Hulu?

Chief Mouseketeer Bob Iger insisted Wednesday that Hulu’s owners are committed to selling the video streaming service.  But what if no one is committed to buying?

Of the half-dozen companies known so far to have been invited in to kick the tires by Hulu’s bankers, only one, Amazon, strikes me as a plausible buyer. The rest seem to have been chosen simply because they have deep pockets (Google, Microsoft, AT&T, Verizon), or, in the case of Yahoo, because it has already expressed interest.

Google: Hulu is owned by the same networks that blocked Google TV from accessing their online content and have largely refused to license their content to YouTube. Given that history, I’m skeptical they would now agree to let Google buy Hulu. Google has also been attracting increased scrutiny from regulators, including the FTC’s current anti-trust investigation of Google’s handling of search results. Read More »

Site-blocking battle going global

Copyright From virtually a standing start in the U.S. last year the debate over blocking access to so-called rogue web sites that host copyright infringing content has escalated rapidly into a worldwide battle.

Last week, a group of leading technology investors and venture capitalists sent a letter to members of the U.S. Congress warning that the Protect IP Act (PIPA), which was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in May, could stifle innovation and harm U.S. competitiveness around the world.

“The bill is ripe for abuse, as it allows rights-holders to require third-parties to block access to and take away revenues sources for online services, with limited oversight and due process,” the group said. “While we understand PIPA was originally intended to deal with “rogue” foreign sites, we think PIPA will ultimately put American innovators and investors at a clear disadvantage in the global economy.” Read More »