Ross Levinsohn, CEO of Guggenheim Digital Media, said he was disappointed his company didn’t end up getting its hands on Hulu — but that he wasn’t surprised the triumvirate of media congloms that own the Internet TV site decided to hold on to it.
“I think the future’s bright for Hulu,” said Levinsohn, speaking Tuesday at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colo. “Obviously it’s disappointing that we didn’t end up owning it and managing it. But I’m not surprised at all they ended up keeping it.”
Hulu’s owners, 21st Century Fox, NBCUniversal and The Walt Disney Co., solicited bids for Hulu earlier this year — the second time around they were trying to sell the Internet TV site.
The auction attracted offers from Guggenheim Digital with private-equity firm KKR, as well as DirecTV, Chernin Group with AT&T, Yahoo, Amazon, Time Warner Cable and others. The media congloms dropped Guggenheim-KKR’s offer from consideration in the latter rounds of bidding because it was too low, according to a source close to the talks.
Then earlier this month, the three owners said they would maintain their respective ownership positions in Hulu after all. In addition, the trio said they will invest $750 million cash in Hulu “to propel future growth,” looking to bulk up the subscription video-on-demand side of the business to vie with Netflix.
Levinsohn said he spoke to News Corp. chairman Rubert Murdoch “February-ish” about Guggenheim’s potential takeover of Hulu, and “it didn’t feel to me like he wanted to sell it.” Levinsohn spent about seven years at News Corp., where his roles included prexy of Fox Interactive Media, and he was at the company for the formation of what became Hulu.
SEE: Hulu Sale Called Off
According to Levinsohn, former Hulu CEO Jason Kilar — who departed at the end of March — and his team “did a far better job than any of us could have imagined… I think it’s great validation for what that team has built that these three giant media companies have decided to support it. So I love the fact that they’re embracing it again.”
Levinsohn, prior to his joining Guggenheim in January, had been CEO of Yahoo. In May, Yahoo under chief Marissa Mayer acquired blog company Tumblr in a deal worth $1.1 billion.
Asked by Fortune editor Nina Easton if he would have bought Tumblr when he was head of Yahoo, Levinsohn said he probably wouldn’t have “because my strategy was focused on premium and super-premium (content)” — and would have focused on Yahoo buying Hulu instead, he said.
Guggenheim Digital Media’s brands include The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, Adweek, the CLIO Awards and Dick Clark Productions.