Yahoo! wants a slice of Hulu

Hulu, owned by three of the largest U.S. broadcast networks is preparing a share sale as early as this year that may value the company at more than $2 billion, says a source close to the plan, on August 16.

Jordan Rohan, an analyst with Stifel Nicolaus in New York, wrote in a note today that Yahoo, owner of the second-most popular U.S. Internet search engine, would consider acquiring a stake in Hulu to solidify itself as an entertainment destination and a “must-buy” for advertisers.

Hulu’s estimated $200 million in revenue this year “implies superior monetization” compared with Google Inc.’s YouTube video site, Rohan wrote.

“Such an acquisition could be a very smart strategic move as the Yahoo sales force would be able to cross-sell Hulu inventory with parts of Yahoo’s own content initiative,” wrote Rohan, who recommends holding Yahoo shares.

Founded in 2007 by General Electric Co.’s NBC Universal and News Corp.’s Fox, Hulu started as an advertising-supported service for viewers to watch previously broadcast TV shows for free online.

Now the venture, also owned by Walt Disney Co.’s ABC and Providence Equity Partners Inc., is starting a subscription service.