Looking to watch the latest episode of “The Daily Show?” Then don’t try your luck on Hulu. Comedy Central stopped uploading new episodes to the video service this week, and is now telling viewers on Twitter to catch Trevor Noah’s latest on its website instead.
The reason for this: A broad licensing deal between Comedy Central parent Viacom and Hulu has expired, and Viacom is now pulling its content from the streaming service. Shows like the “Chappelle’s Show,” “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” and “@midnight” have already disappeared from the site entirely, while remaining catalog episodes from “Tosh.0,” “The Daily Show,” and other shows from Viacom networks like MTV and Logo are set to expire soon.
Not impacted by the removal are a handful of shows including “South Park,” “Inside Amy Schumer,” and “Broad City,” for which Viacom and Hulu have struck exclusive licensing deals. Hulu will also keep streaming past episodes of a couple of Viacom catalog shows, including “Key & Peele,” “Jersey Shore,” and “Catfish,” for which it has also licensed on an exclusive basis.
Spokespeople from Viacom and Hulu both acknowledged that the agreement had expired; Viacom’s spokesperson reiterated that consumers will be able to watch “The Daily Show” and “@midnight” on its own site and apps.
Viacom CEO Bob Bakish hinted at this development during last week’s earnings call, telling analysts and investors that “SVOD is not going to be a significant part of our affiliate revenue” going forward, and that the company would be “highly selective in striking agreements with over the top distributors” in the future.
Bakish’s declared goal is to “reinforce the pay TV ecosystem,” which essentially means that the company is looking to make more money with selling its entire pay TV bundle.
He went on to praise new entrants like Sling TV and DirecTV Now as “catalysts for innovation,” but the message was clear: Going forward, Viacom wants to double down on its bundle, and be more selective with SVOD licensing deals. This also means that “The Daily Show” and other shows taken off Hulu now won’t be back on the service any time soon.
Interestingly, those new internet TV entrants also include Hulu, which is set to launch its pay TV service in the coming months. Hulu has said that it wants to charge consumers $40 for a base package. The company has announced partnerships with Fox, Disney, CBS, and Turner for its live TV service, but has yet to say whether it wants Comedy Central and other Viacom networks as part of its bundle.
Given the $40 price tag, one has to wonder whether Hulu can make those numbers work if it were to include Viacom’s package of 20-plus networks. And Hulu wouldn’t be alone to offer a skinny bundle without Comedy Central & Co.: Sony’s Playstation Vue internet TV service decided to drop Viacom’s networks entirely in November.
At the time, Sony painted this as a way to keep the price of the Vue bundle down, declaring in a statement: “As part of our ongoing evaluation of the PlayStation Vue offering, we have determined that removing the bundle of channels from Viacom is the best way for us to continue to offer the most compelling value to our fans.”
Part of Viacom’s problem is that “The Daily Show” isn’t nearly as popular under Noah’s helm as it used to be when Jon Stewart anchored the show. The number of viewers who caught the show on TV was down 27% in 2016 when compared to 2015.
Comedy Central has countered this narrative by pointing out that viewing across digital platforms has grown significantly; multiplatform streams were up 57% following the election, thanks largely to huge numbers on Facebook and YouTube.