Hulu’s Pay-TV Play: Networks Realize They Should Try to Work with Their Biggest Customers

Internet video venture seeking deals with cable and satellite operators, WSJ reports

Hulu has been something of an irritant to cable and satellite TV operators, which have viewed the Internet streaming joint venture as a potential rival — offering a bouquet of current-season TV shows that could prompt people to drop pay TV for the cheaper Hulu Plus option.

Indeed, Hulu’s service has been a bone of contention in retransmission-consent negotiations between media congloms and distributors. To paraphrase the response: Why should we pay more for your broadcast TV programming, if it’s free on Hulu.com?

Now, Hulu’s parents — Disney, 21st Century Fox and NBCUniversal — are pursuing a strategy designed to reinforce the traditional pay TV business instead of threaten it, which arguably should have been its approach all along.

Hulu has held discussions with operators including Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, AT&T and Verizon Communications about pacts that would include Hulu Plus as part of their TV bundles, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing anonymous sources. Hulu also has discussed such an arrangement with AT&T for the carrier’s wireless broadband, according to the report.

SEE ALSO: 5 Ways New CEO Mike Hopkins Can Save Hulu

Word that Hulu is exploring pay-TV partnerships comes after the company installed Mike Hopkins, former president of distribution for Fox Networks, as CEO.

Given that Hopkins has been sitting across the bargaining table from the likes of Comcast, TW Cable and others for the last five years, it’s logical that one of his priorities would be to find ways to make Hulu a more attractive partner to pay TV operators. 

Another point: Fox has already shifted to a “TV Everywhere” strategy for new episodes made available on Hulu.com, back in 2011. Under that approach, new episodes of Fox shows are available to Hulu Plus subs and customers of Fox’s pay TV partners the day after air (which currently include Dish Network, Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-verse), before coming to the free Hulu service after eight days.

Whether big operators will go for the Hulu Plus bundling idea is an open question. Comcast, for one, has shown a preference for delivering its own branded multiscreen services, including Xfinity.TV and Streampix, and has been expanding content deals for them.

Meanwhile, Hulu has been looking to bulk up its originals, as it seeks to compete more vigorously with Netflix. And at the same time, Netflix is looking to cut distribution deals with pay TV players, as well, to expand its reach.

For Hulu, though, the strategy of teaming up with pay TV providers shows that it’s more eager to position itself as an ally to the distributors that pay the freight for Hulu’s parent companies.

Popular on Variety

More Digital

  • Discovery Launching Free Streaming Service Dplay

    Discovery Launching Free Streaming Service Dplay in the U.K. and Ireland

    Discovery is making a free-streaming play in the U.K. and Ireland with the launch of Dplay. The ad-supported service launches this week. It will be programmed with content from Discovery’s bouquet of free-TV channels in the U.K., which includes Quest, Food Network, and former UKTV brands Really and Home. The lineup of launch titles includes: [...]

  • Doug Scott - Twitch

    Twitch Recruits Zynga's Doug Scott as Chief Marketing Officer

    Doug Scott is leaving as game company Zynga’s marketing boss to become Twitch’s CMO. Scott assumes the CMO role at Twitch after previous chief marketing officer Kate Jhaveri exited this summer to become the NBA’s top marketing exec. News of Scott’s hire comes less than a month after Twitch launched a redesigned logo and site, [...]

  • Carter Hansen - VidCon

    VidCon Hires Ex-AwesomenessTV Exec Carter Hansen to Head Conference Programming

    VidCon hired Carter Hansen, a founding executive at AwesomenessTV, as VP of programming to oversee conference programming and content for the internet-video events producer. In the newly created role, Hansen reports to VidCon GM Jim Louderback and will be based in Viacom’s Hollywood office. As part of overseeing programming worldwide for VidCon’s community, creator and [...]

  • The Boys Amazon Prime

    Nielsen Adds Amazon Prime Video to SVOD Measurement, With Limitations

    After two years of measuring Netflix viewing, Nielsen has now added Amazon Prime Video to the mix of subscription-streaming services it tracks — and with the same set of limitations. Nielsen’s SVOD Content Ratings originally launched in October 2017 with Netflix. According to the research firm, the addition of Amazon Prime Video measurement will let [...]

  • Gavel Court Placeholder

    Netflix Movie Scammer Admits to Defrauding Investors Out of $14 Million

    A California man has admitted to defrauding investment groups — nabbing $14 million — by falsely claiming the money would be used to produce a feature film for Netflix. On Oct. 18, Adam Joiner, 41, of Manhattan Beach, Calif., pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in U.S. District Court, according to federal authorities. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content