Late Tuesday afternoon, The Wall Street Journal reported that Hulu was considering an offer after "a potential buyer approached it with an unsolicited offer." The Los Angeles Times tacitly confirmed the news that an offer had been made and followed up with a report that, "according to a person with knowledge of the matter," it was Yahoo that made the offer. Michael Arrington at TechCrunch chimed in later that evening with a third report that both papers were wrong. An unnamed source told him that even though Hulu has hired Morgan Stanley to help them find a buyer, they've yet to receive an offer. How confusing.
There's obviously something going with Hulu. But parsing out the facts from rumors is like reading tea leaves with reports like unconfirmed report from an anonymous source after unconfirmed report from an anonymous source. This excerpt from the LA Times coverage is a good illustration of the layers of distance between the papers and the facts:
Although there has been interest in the company, it remains unclear whether its owners have any desire to sell. Hulu has not taken any traditional steps associated with a sale such as retaining an investment bank to field offers. However, it is currently undergoing a restructuring that would give Chief Executive Jason Kilar and his executive team greater autonomy while imposing new rules on the availability of television content.
On Tuesday afternoon, word of the unsolicited offer spread and was subsequently confirmed by people close to the company. It is not known whether the offer came from Yahoo or another entity. Spokespersons for Yahoo, Hulu, News Corp. and Comcast declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Reactions to the news--or lack of news or whatever--have been understandably vague as well. Will Richmond, who runs a blog about online video, questioned whether the reports were correct in a Business Insider column, adding "even if it is legit, the odds of any Hulu acquisition at this point are actually quite low." Not acknowledging the LA Times' naming Yahoo as the buyer, Michael J. De La Merced and Evelyn M. Rusli at The New York Times's DealBook blog acknowledged the thin sourcing but went ahead with speculative analysis: "A potential buyer would also have to consider the cost of Hulu’s premium content, noted Andy Hargreaves, an analyst with Pacific Crest Securities. A technology giant like Microsoft or Google could be a good fit, he said, but it would be tricky."
There are about a thousand other blogs who made lists of potential buyers and wondered what Hulu thought about all the buzz. This would kind of be the point if one of these anonymous sources wanted to spread rumors. Michael Arrington offered this pretty honest disclaimer in his brief coverage:
With big acquisitions the press is a huge pawn in negotiating strategy. The one thing I’d like to know is who’s the source for the LA Times article. If that source is close to Hulu or Morgan Stanley, I’d be wary. Of course, my source has her own agenda, too.
That's the most clearcut and confirmable thing we've heard yet.
UPDATE (6:13 p.m.): The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Los Angeles Times are all confirming Michael Arrington's report yesterday that Hulu has hired Morgan Stanley as an adviser for a possible sale. The three papers also report that Hulu also hired Guggenheim Partners. All of the papers trace the report back to a tip on background from an unnamed source.