Hulu needs owners who aren't ancient and terrible. Apple needs a streaming video service that isn't ancient and terrible. So based on those unconfirmed reports that Apple is interested in buying Hulu, I have only one demand: DO IT.
Just imagine for a moment what Hulu would mean for iTunes, and vice versa: Gone would be the days of having to buy $20 season passes one by one. Instead, a single subscription fee would handle everything. You'd use iTunes to push episodes of shows onto your iOS device for offline viewing. And the Apple TV would become the focal point of your living room. In its current form it's a neat piece of technology, but aside from AirPlay and Netflix (the latter of which we all have on like four different devices), Apple TV is hardly a must-have. Apple knows it, too, referring to its streaming hocky puck as a "hobby" during this week's conference call, while adding that there is much more they could do with it. Acquiring Hulu would definitely be doing a lot.
The timing all makes sense. Apple is making its big push into cloud/streaming technologies with iCloud and iTunes in the Cloud. And they have a ton of cash to play around with—$76.2 billion. That's enough to buy Hulu nearly 40 times over.
Hulu, meanwhile, is a company in flux. Its broadcast network owners approach the idea of streaming with hostility and were never quite sure whether they wanted to grow it or smother it before they decided to dump it.
But Apple? They'd make it work. They've got the silver tongue and muscle to get what they want out of content companies (see: the record labels). Jobs not only used to own Pixar in its entirety, he also sold it to Disney to become that company's largest shareholder and an active member on its board of directors. He knows how the industry works. If anyone can get more shows and movies (please, god, more movies) on Hulu, it's Jobs. In Apple's hands, Hulu could become the end all, be all destination for streaming content. Especially since integrating Hulu with the iTunes store would likely create an instant, substantial user base above and beyond those who already subscribe.
Of course, such a deal probably would also mean the end of Hulu other streaming devices (in time). Apple likes to wholly absorb the companies it buys. Hulu would almost certainly become an Apple brand, and when was the last time you saw an Apple service on a non-Apple device (PCs notwithstanding). The service would probably be available on Windows, much like iTunes and Safari are. But when whatever prior agreements expire, Hulu would likely cease to exist on Xbox, Roku, Boxee, PS3, Tivo, etc. It'd be an Apple TV exclusive. But it'd still probably be worth it.
And what's the alternative? Hulu sells to Yahoo and gets run into the ground by inept management? Or to Microsoft, where it will be swallowed whole by the corporate whale and lost inside its belly forever? Or maybe they end up as a Google property, which wouldn't be so terrible, except how do YouTube and Hulu peaceably coexist?
But more than that, it's time for the world of streaming media to come of age. Apple is a company who embraces new ideas. Hulu is a company that embraces new ideas. Yes Spotify is close to capturing the attention of the listening masses, and Hulu is close to doing the same with video. But as Netflix can attest, the streaming video world is much tougher than that of streaming music. Hulu needs the business savvy of a company like Apple to help them give users what they want: television over the internet.
Do it for yourself or do it for us, Apple, I don't care. Just do it. [Bloomberg]