Thu, Jun 23, 2011 - Page 10 News List

Yahoo reportedly makes unsolicited approach to Hulu

AFP, NEW YORK and SAN FRANCISCO

Yahoo has approached Hulu about a potential acquisition of the US online video entertainment site, though the identity of the prospective buyer remains unclear, the Los Angeles Times said on Tuesday.

Hulu has a complex ownership structure, with investors that include News Corp, Walt Disney Co and NBCUniversal.

The Times said word of Yahoo’s unsolicited offer was confirmed by a person close to the company, but noted it remained unclear whether the offer had come directly from the Internet firm or another entity.

Talk of the sale comes as the market for distributing TV content online grows increasingly competitive. The Wall Street Journal, which first reported on the offer, said it had led Hulu’s board to consider its options — namely to sell or not to sell — and to seek other investors who might be interested.

Hulu, which counts nearly 300 employees, primarily offers ad-supported full-length television shows and movies for free.

It has also launched subscription service Hulu Plus offering full seasons of some TV shows instead of just certain episodes.

Hulu can currently only be viewed by Internet users in the US, but plans to eventually expand worldwide. It is said to have abandoned plans to go public in December.

Meanwhile, miffed Alibaba Group (阿里巴巴) stakeholder Yahoo said on Tuesday that talks aimed at resolving a rift over Chinese online payment platform Alipay (支付寶) have been “constructive.”

Yahoo notified the US Securities and Exchange Commission last month that ownership of Alipay had been transferred to a Chinese firm owned mostly by Alibaba chief executive Jack Ma (馬雲) without the knowledge or approval of Alibaba’s board of directors or shareholders, which also include Japan’s Softbank.

However, Ma has insisted that investors Yahoo and Softbank were informed of the transfer of ownership and it was done to comply with Chinese licensing regulations.

Alibaba and major shareholders Yahoo and Softbank “continue to be engaged in constructive negotiations,” Yahoo said in a statement.

“And we have made substantive and encouraging progress toward an agreement regarding Alipay,” the company said.

Ma has portrayed himself as the good guy in the rift with Yahoo and suggested the faded Internet star get its own house in order.

During a chat at an All Things Digital conference early this month in the California resort town of Rancho Palos Verdes, Ma likened meetings with Yahoo to “peace talks in the United Nations” slowly moving toward an accord.

“I’m the good guy,” Ma said. “I think I do the right things. Somebody has to take the responsibility to be the leader to make decisions to move things ahead.”

Yahoo owns a 43 percent stake in Alibaba and an estimated 40 percent share of Alipay.

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