Owned by media giants News Corp., Walt Disney Co. and Comcast Corp., Hulu has been fielding offers from suitors including DirecTV, Time Warner Cable, Yahoo and the Chernin Group. Private equity firms Silver Lake Management and KKR & Co. have also placed bids.
Greenfield warns that it would be a mistake for the owners to focus solely on how much they can get for Hulu without considering who is buying and the long-term implications.
DirecTV could use Hulu to build an online multi-channel distributor or a TV-everywhere app, which would create yet another platform that Hulu's owners would need to get their programming onto, Greenfield wrote in a note to clients.
That, he noted, would give DirecTV just one more "bargaining chip" to lower the prices it pays for programming from those companies, said Greenfield.
"It makes no sense to strengthen your distributors," he wrote.
Greenfield said it would be better if either News Corp. or Disney just acquired all of Hulu. Comcast is prohibited from owning any more of Hulu per conditions it agreed to in return for government approval of its purchase of a controlling stake in NBCUniversal.
Since Disney and News Corp. are unlikely to sell to each other and buy out Comcast, Greenfield thinks a better strategic buyer would be private equity firms or an Internet company such as Yahoo and not an established TV distribution service.