Time Warner is taking a 10% stake in Hulu — joining existing owners Disney, 21st Century Fox and Comcast — and as part of the investment Turner will bring its cable networks to Hulu’s live-streaming TV service set to launch in 2017.
Terms of Time Warner’s Hulu deal initially were not disclosed. Time Warner later confirmed it is investing $583 million in cash, which implies Hulu is worth nearly $6 billion. The media conglom had been in talks to buy a piece of Hulu for months, with news of a potential deal surfacing last fall.
Hulu, with the cash infusion and Time Warner’s strategic backing, now has additional firepower to challenge subscription VOD leader Netflix in acquiring original shows, cutting licensing deals and expanding its service. With Time Warner’s buy-in, Comcast’s NBCUniversal, Disney and Fox each now own 30% stakes in Hulu.
“Our investment in Hulu underscores Time Warner’s commitment to supporting and developing new platforms for the delivery of high-quality content and great consumer experiences to audiences around the globe,” Time Warner chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes said in announcing the deal.
Time Warner has a multifaceted SVOD strategy. Its own services include HBO Now and DramaFever, which Warner Bros. acquired earlier this year. Turner is slated to launch movie-streaming service FilmStruck this fall, and execs across Time Warner divisions have said they’re looking at additional over-the-top services. The company also has various existing content deals with Hulu, as well as with Netflix and Amazon Prime, but now Time Warner has a big financial interest in seeing Hulu’s overall business thrive.
With the Hulu investment, Time Warner said Turner networks including TNT, TBS, CNN, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, truTV, Boomerang and Turner Classic Movies will be available live and on-demand on Hulu’s new live-streaming service.
Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins said, “This investment from Time Warner marks a major step for Hulu as we continue to redefine television for both consumers and advertisers. Our two companies have long enjoyed a productive relationship – which includes the availability of past seasons of popular Turner shows on our current SVOD offerings – and we are very proud that Turner’s networks will be included in our planned live streaming service.”
Hulu’s OTT bundle of live broadcast and cable networks, pegged for launch sometime next year, marks a major expansion for the company outside the SVOD space. With the service, the four media conglomerate owners — Disney, Fox, Comcast’s NBCUniversal and now Time Warner — will be competing with pay-TV distributors, who represent their biggest customers.