Published July 25, 2011
What opportunity, void, or problem would Apple solve by gobbling up Hulu?
The word on the street from Bloomberg's anonymous sources whispers that Apple is in talks to buy the popular video streaming service. Hulu is co-run by FOX, NBC, and Disney and offers up popular television shows and movies on demand.
On the surface an Apple acquisition makes little sense -- and when you dig deeper it makes even less.
For starters, where is the opportunity with Hulu? Is streaming video a problem for Apple? Sure, streaming video on iTunes isn't the most elegant experience, but would Hulu inside iTunes make it any better? Apple can fix the iTunes streaming experience itself (and I would wager someone plans to).
Remember, Apple didn't have to buy Netflix in order to build it into the Apple TV.
As for content, I'll admit that Hulu has some great TV shows. Or at least it did before a lot of it disappeared behind a pay wall. And a lot of that same content is already available on iTunes. The two companies are going toe to toe when it comes to licensing deals, so I don't think Hulu really has the goods to offer Apple on that front.
The one thing Hulu has that Apple could use is a solid video-subscription service. Many people speculate that Apple will launch a monthly subscription service for music or video, one that would allow unlimited access for a monthly price. That hasn't happened yet, no matter how much we all want it. Acquiring streaming service Lala didn't bring that any closer, so I'm not clear how buying Hulu would.
Then there's the issue of Flash. As John Gruber at DaringFireball pointed out, Hulu is built on Adobe's Flash architecture -- and we all know how much Steve Jobs hates Flash video. Sure, Apple could just rebuild Hulu in HTML 5, but it seems a long way to go for little payoff.
Of course, Apple has tons of cash sitting in the bank. The company could write a check for Hulu -- but Apple didn't get to this point by writing frivolous checks. It could just build something similar in-house. And for what it's worth, my money is on the latter.