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Hulu Live TV Service Won’t Have Viacom Networks

Internet streaming service still negotiating with AMC, Discovery, Scripps, NBCU

Hulu’s live TV service will not have Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, MTV or any other Viacom-owned networks, with the streaming company definitively deciding to forego a carriage deal with the media conglomerate.

Hulu’s decision to not go forward with Viacom, reported earlier by Bloomberg, comes after the VOD distribution agreement between the two companies expired last month. A Hulu rep confirmed that there will be no deal with Viacom for linear television networks but declined to comment further.

While Hulu had been seeking to include Viacom networks in the bundle, that was contingent on the media conglomerate agreeing to a large subscription VOD deal — a direction Viacom is moving away from. “SVOD is not going to be a significant part of our affiliate revenue” going forward, CEO Bob Bakish said on Viacom’s earnings call in February, adding that the company would be “highly selective in striking agreements with over-the-top distributors.”

Asked for comment on Hulu’s decision, a Viacom spokesman said, “We currently have distribution with the largest virtual MVPDs, and are engaged in ongoing conversations with a spectrum of new, emerging digital distributors as we execute against our recently announced strategy.”

After some delays, Hulu’s live TV service — to be priced under $40 per month — is expected to debut in April, although no date has been set at this point. Originally, according to a source familiar with Hulu’s plans, it wanted to launch the service in time for the NCAA March Madness tournament. The service will feature a cloud-based DVR, personalization features and a revamped interface designed for live-television viewing.

Hulu, owned by NBCUniversal, Disney and 21st Century Fox, on Friday announced a distribution deal with A+E Networks. It has previously announced pacts with 21st Century Fox, CBS, Disney-ESPN and Turner.

Hulu is still in talks with Discovery Communications, Scripps Networks Interactive and AMC Networks. It also has not yet officially inked an agreement with NBCU but that’s expected to be reached in the coming weeks.

Last November, Sony dropped Viacom networks from the PlayStation Vue internet-delivered pay-TV service, saying in a statement, “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.”

Viacom does have a deal for AT&T’s DirecTV Now, while Dish Network’s Sling TV carries just Comedy Central. Google’s recently announced YouTube TV will not include Viacom nets at launch (nor does YouTube currently have Discovery, A+E, Scripps, Turner or HBO), with deals to offer CBS, Showtime, Fox, NBC, ABC and Disney channels.

Last month Viacom CEO Bob Bakish said the company would double down on six core channels (out of its portfolio of 25), angling to make them must-have networks for any pay-TV bundle: Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., MTV, Comedy Central, BET and Spike TV, which will be rechristened the Paramount Network in early 2018 and converted into a general entertainment channel.

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