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Comcast promises not to lock Hulu behind paywall

Enjoy it while it lasts

Comcast doesn't plan on locking Hulu behind a paywall once it's given the keys to NBC Universal.

In a deal valued at about $37 billion that ends General Electric's majority control of NBC Universal, the US cable giant is set to become a media superpower that not only oversees how television shows are distributed, but also how they're made.

The deal announced Thursday would give Comcast a 51 per cent stake in NBC Universal while GE keeps 49 per cent.

That has some Hulu fans worried that Comcast will demand viewers begin paying to watch shows on the website. Hulu is a joint venture between NBC Universal, Fox Entertainment (News Corp.), and ABC (The Walt Disney Company), with each controlling a 27 per cent stake.

But Comcast already owns an on-demand television website called TV Everywhere, along with a fellow US cable bigwig, Time Warner. The site is only available to paying subscribers of either company's cable services.

Comcast fielded several questions about the fate of Hulu on the conference call detailing the acquisition. When asked if the company would shepherd the creation of a "Hulu Premium," Comcast chief executive Brian Roberts said: "That is certainly not in the cards."

Comcast's chief operating officer Stephen Burke even said the ad-funded Hulu model is "smart and appropriate." He added that Hulu is a "complementary product" to their own TV website, with broadcast shows appearing on Hulu and cable shows on TV Everywhere.

But that still leaves News Corp.'s hanging threat to create a "premium" channel on Hulu. And Comcast can always get a change of deck. Enjoy free Hulu while it lasts. ®

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