The final session this morning explored the emergence of online television services such as the BBC’s iPlayer and Hulu. Many of the audience saw Hulu demonstrated for the first time and were clearly impressed. Hulu is now reaching around 40M users a month in the US and looking towards international expansion for its next growth opportunity. Johannes Larcher, Hulu’s Senior Vice-President, International, indicated that the UK was clearly the first priority and that the company “is talking to everyone”, without naming names. He suggested news of Hulu’s arrival in the UK would come “not too far in the future”.
The Q&A session brought up the question of the differences in the UK and US broadcast regulatory environments which apparently allowed Hulu (owned by Fox, Universal and, now, Disney) to launch without problems, and yet Kangaroo in the UK, a similar venture, was blocked by the regulator.
One audience member pointed out that, although only two of the US majors were the original partners in Hulu, and therefore had a relatively low market share, historically the US has blocked many previous attempts by the Hollywood studios to join forces in various ventures which involve distribution of their product. It was therefore “surprising” that Hulu has been able to go ahead, particularly with Disney now becoming a partner. It was suggested that it might only be a question of time before Hulu did come under the US regulatory spotlight because of its exclusive access to first run online content.
In the UK, meanwhile, the BBC’s Anthony Rose suggested that whatever new services arrived in Europe, the rights issues would always be complex and will determine success or failure. He also indicated that Project Marquee, which will make iPlayer technologies available to other public service broadcasters, is currently being reviewed by the BBC Trust with a decision scheduled for mid-July.
Client Reading: Global Digital Media Growth Slows to 2.7% in Q4 2008