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Does losing 'Saturday Night Live' clips to Yahoo hurt Hulu?

April 25, 2013|By Dawn C. Chmielewski
  • Yahoo won the exclusive rights to distribute clips from past seasons of "Saturday Night Live," starting with its first season, which starred Gilda Radner, shown here in a still photo from the DVD release of "Saturday Night Live: The Complete First Season."
Yahoo won the exclusive rights to distribute clips from past seasons of… (Universal Studios Home…)

On the eve of the NewFront digital media presentations next week to advertisers, Yahoo! Chief Executive Marissa Mayer trumpeted a high-profile conquest: NBC's iconic sketch-comedy show "Saturday Night Live."

Yahoo landed the exclusive rights to "SNL" clips from past seasons, starting in 1975, as well as to select musical performances, dress rehearsal footage and behind-the-scenes clips. The show archives will become available, starting Sept. 1, along with current-season clips that it will distribute on a non-exclusive basis.

The rights to the clips had prevously been held by Hulu.

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"Live from New York, it's Saturday Night! The complete 38 year collection of skits is coming soon to @Yahoo,"

Yahoo hopes the deal will help make it an online video destination. The "SNL" clips also should be a hit with advertisers.

"When somebody does a search on a favorite 'SNL' skit, they're going to end up at Yahoo’s site," said Colin Dixon, founder and chief analyst for analyst firm nScreen Media. "Getting people to their site is really important, because they're advertising-based."

Given that NBC parent Comcast Corp. is a co-owner of Hulu, the idea of old "Saturday Night Live" being exclusive to Yahoo may seem odd.

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But while NBC airs "Saturday Night Live," the show's distribution rights belong to executive producer Lorne Michael's production company Broadway Video Entertainment. 

So, is this a major blow to Hulu?

The online video service, which is owned jointly by News Corp., the Walt Disney. Co. and Comcast Corp., won't comment. 

But it's not as if Hulu will be entirely cut off from "Saturday Night Live." The service will continue to offer full episodes and clips from the current season, and subscribers to its Hulu Plus can watch any SNL show from the past. However, Hulu users won't find old clips, of, say, "The Super Bass-o-Matic '76," "Schweddy Balls" or "... in a Box."

"That was historically a reasonable driver of Hulu consumption," said Dan Cryan, a senior director for I.H.S. research. "What we don't know is whether it still is key to Hulu consumption."

Dixon said online distributors like Hulu and Netflix have become more selective about their licensing deals, now that they know which content resonates with their viewers. Such was the case when Netflix allowed its deal with premium subscription channel Starz to expire last year, and instead outbid the pay TV channel for the rights to movies from Walt Disney Studios, Disney and Pixar animation studios, Marvel Entertainment and Lucasfilm.

"My suspicion is that Hulu probably could have bid on this content -- they certainly knew that their rights were coming up," Dixon said. "They probably had a specific figure in mind. Perhaps Yahoo simply bid higher than they thought the content was worth."

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