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Hulu is no longer for sale

July 12, 2013: 1:37 PM ET

120816064208-video-streaming-hulu-monsterHulu's big media owners choose to reinvest rather than sell.

FORTUNE -- Hulu is no longer for sale, as the streaming video company's media owners have decided to maintain their shares and invest an additional $750 million in cash.

In a statement, owners 21st Century Fox (NWS), NBCUniversal (CMCSA), and The Walt Disney Co. (DIS) said that Hulu now has more than 30 million monthly unique visitors for its service with videos from over 400 content partners.

The Wall Street Journal had reported earlier this week that there had been three final acquisition offers for Hulu. One came from DirecTV (DTV), while the others were joint bids: one from AT&T (T) and Chernin Group, and another from Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR) and Guggenheim Digital Media. Earlier suitors had included Yahoo (YHOO), talent agency William Morris Endeavor, and private equity firm Silver Lake.

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"I think that [Hulu's owners] were genuinely interested in selling the company to the highest bidder a couple of months ago, but they began to value what they had more as they got more inbound interest," says a source familiar with the process. "It was kind of like they were flattered, and it made them begin to want to keep it for themselves."

This entire experience is a bit of a rerun for Hulu, which also ran a failed auction process back in 2011 after prospective buyers worried that the sellers would no longer offer their content via the site. This time around the bids were attached to very specific content licensing agreements with Hulu's current owners, but they were fairly restrictive. Such limits kept the final bidding group fairly small and also may have kept the price at the $1 billion range rather than the $1.3 billion or $1.4 billion that it may otherwise have garnered.

The press release does not explain what Hulu will do with its $750 million windfall or if new strategic partnerships are afoot. There had been talk that Hulu could launch a white-labeled platform for third-party cable companies like Time Warner Cable (TWC) -- something Comcast CEO Brian Roberts was said to be pushing -- while Hulu also could use money to acquire additional content and subscribers (as it moves from an ad-supported model toward a more Netflix-like subscription model).

One of Hulu's original four owners -- private equity firm Providence Equity Partners -- last fall sold its 10% stake to Fox, NBC and Disney for $200 million. That $2 billion valuation had been set via a 2x liquidation preference as part of Providence's original $100 million investment and was not viewed as any sort of floor for the auction process.

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About This Author
Dan Primack
Dan Primack
Senior Editor, Fortune

Dan Primack joined Fortune.com in September 2010 to cover deals and dealmakers, from Wall Street to Sand Hill Road. Previously, Dan was an editor-at-large with Thomson Reuters, where he launched both peHUB.com and the peHUB Wire email service. In a past journalistic life, Dan ran a community paper in Roxbury, Massachusetts. He currently lives just outside of Boston.

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