No joke: Viacom will end the 21-month run of Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report on Hulu, effective March 9, while the media company will continue to offer full episodes from each show on its own sites.
Neither Comedy Central nor parent Viacom provided an explanation for why the shows were coming off Hulu, which is a joint venture of News Corp., Walt Disney Co. and NBC Universal. After lengthy negotiations, Viacom and Hulu were unable to agree on pricing terms, The New York Timesreported citing an anonymous source.
In a statement, Comedy Central said, "Hulu was one of the many digital distribution partners we've worked with over the past few years to add new outlets for our valuable and powerful content and to help drive the businesses of our partners. We had a great experience with Hulu, and we hope to work with its team again in the future."
The news about the end of the Comedy Central deal with Hulu came in a blog post Tuesday by Andy Forssell, Hulu's senior vice president of content and distribution.
"The team at Comedy Central have been great partners for us, and our users have been extremely vocal and passionate about how much they love what the Comedy Central folks are doing," Forssell wrote. "In the past 21 months, we've had very strong results for both Hulu and Comedy Central, in terms of the views and revenue we've generated... After a series of discussions with the team at Comedy Central, though, we ultimately were unable to secure the rights to extend these shows for a much longer period of time."
As of 11:59 p.m. (PT) next Tuesday, March 9, the two Comedy Central shows will no longer be available on Hulu. Comedy Central has made The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Colbert Report available through Hulu since June 2008.
Forssell added that Hulu is "continuing to talk to the Comedy Central folks about a number of opportunities. They're a great team and I'm confident that we'll be working with them in multiple ways in the future ... so stay tuned and know that we are scouring the earth for more great content for you."
The development "was yet another reminder that the evolution of Web TV will not follow a linear path," wrote Sanford Bernstein analysts Michael Nathanson and Craig Moffett in a research note Wednesday.
The Bernstein analysts noted that six companies -- Disney, Time Warner Inc., News Corp., Viacom, CBS and NBC Universal -- control more than 80% of TV viewing hours in the U.S., as measured by Nielsen. "Until they find a model that is economically viable, the development of online video will be halting at best," Nathanson and Moffett wrote.