Freeview beats off US rivals
THE booming video portal Hulu, operated by News Corp and NBC Universal, has beaten a hasty retreat from Australia after failing to convince free-to-air networks to back its one-stop service to deliver full-length TV shows online.
But in a sign that broadcasters here are increasingly nervous about the popularity of TV programs distributed on the internet, all free-to-air broadcasters have signed a new initiative, Freeview, for an industry-wide video hub.
The ABC's iView technology is the frontrunner to deliver the service although a consultant has been commissioned by Freeview to advise on vendor partnerships. A launch date for Freeview is expected later this year.
Freeview's chief executive, Robin Parkes, confirmed to the Herald that all TV broadcasters were backing the online video portal but details of what content would be carried was still months away.
If the popularity of Hulu in the US is any measure, public interest here will be high. Hulu attracted 4.9 million unique visitors in January, behind the CBS-backed TV.com with 5.9 million visitors last month.
Hulu was looking for up to $10 million from Australian broadcasters, but Network Seven proved to be the most reluctant.
"Hulu ran screaming," said one executive. "It was bloody hard for them. They underestimated how complicated a small market like this is. At least one of the networks was extremely difficult to deal with."