Midsize cable operator Suddenlink Communications was unable to reach a deal to distribute Viacom’s suite of 24 networks — but it has just clinched a pact with Hulu to offer subscribers access to the Internet TV service’s premium VOD service.
Suddenlink, which has about 1.1 million TV subscribers, will work with Hulu to provide customers who have TiVo set-top boxes access to Hulu’s SVOD service some time later this year. The operator reached a similar deal with Netflix a year ago.
Hulu’s pact with Suddenlink comes after the streaming-video provider landed similar reseller deals with Cablevision Systems and five smaller cable companies: Armstrong, Atlantic Broadband, Mediacom Communications, Midcontinent Communications and WideOpenWest. AT&T also plans to sell Hulu’s SVOD service to customers, but only for web and mobile apps and not through U-verse TV for now.
French media conglom Altice announced on May 20 a deal to buy St. Louis-based Suddenlink in a deal valued at $9.1 billion.
“Our ongoing network investments allow us to deliver Hulu to our customers with Internet connections that tend to be the fastest and highest-ranked in the communities we serve,” said Suddenlink chief programming officer Kathy Payne.
Last fall, Suddenlink hit an impasse with Viacom — purveyor of cable networks including Nickelodeon, MTV and VH1 — over fees for carrying the media company’s channels. The cable company has said it does not intend to reinstate Viacom programming in the foreseeable future. Viacom has responded that its content is available “through hundreds of partners, including cable, satellite and many online destinations. Customers of these partners receive robust access to our programming, through a variety of audience-friendly distribution agreements that can include television, online and VOD offerings.”
“After making a good-faith effort to reach a new agreement with Viacom — which had sought a nearly 50% increase in payments and rejected every offer from Suddenlink — we introduced other channels from the likes of Disney, Discovery, Hallmark and more,” the cable operator says in a statement posted on suddenlinkonyourside.com. Viacom has countered that Suddenlink broke off talks and that its content is available “through hundreds of partners, including cable, satellite and many online destinations.”
Hulu has about 9 million subscribers for the $7.99-per-month service. The company has been aggressively acquiring exclusive content, including all nine seasons of “Seinfeld,” and developing a bold slate of originals to lure in more subs. The company has marketed the subscription VOD service as Hulu Plus, but the company will be dropping the “Plus” from the name.
Other recent Hulu programming pickups include Fox hit “Empire,” Comedy Central’s “South Park” and CBS’ “CSI,” and last month announced a deal with AMC Networks under which it obtains exclusive rights to “The Walking Dead” spinoff “Fear the Walking Dead.” Hulu also offers current-season programming from five of the six top broadcast networks (excluding CBS) and other Hulu originals, like “Deadbeat” from Lionsgate Television.
Hulu is a joint venture of 21st Century Fox, Disney and NBCUniversal.