×

Hulu Eyes Cheaper Live TV Bundles That Strip Out Entertainment Cable Networks

Hulu wants to cater to a new crowd of pay-TV “cord-shavers” with stripped-down, less-expensive live television bundles that include sports, news and on-demand content — dropping linear entertainment networks to save costs.

Hulu CEO Randy Freer sketched out the concept in an interview with The Information published Tuesday, saying that the skinnier bundles would be designed to appeal to a cohort of price-sensitive users and prove more profitable by cutting out carriage fees for multiple networks. Instead, Hulu subscribers would have access to on-demand programming licensed from cable networks.

The idea goes to the heart of shifting TV viewing behavior: How much value do “live” entertainment channels really provide, when it’s more convenient to watch more shows on VOD? The company has been in talks with programmers about introducing skinnier bundles, a Hulu rep said.

At this point, Hulu doesn’t have any specifics on what the pricing of the stripped-down live TV bundle might cost, except that it would be less than its current $40-per-month plan for a bouquet of 50-plus national cable networks and local TV stations. Nor is Hulu providing a ballpark for when skinnier bundles could be launched or which networks would be excluded.

In a possible prelude to Hulu’s move to extra-skinny live TV, the company inked a deal with Discovery last month that boosted its VOD lineup with a total of almost 4,000 episodes of shows from the non-fiction programmer. The deal also covers live TV carriage for five Discovery networks, set to be added to the regular Hulu With Live TV bundle in December.

Here’s a guess about what a “skinnier” Hulu bundle could include: local ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC TV stations, along with CNN, CNBC, ESPN/ESPN2, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, Fox Sports, HLN, Cheddar and Turner’s TBS and TNT (which include a fair amount of live sports). Also potentially in the lineup could be sports nets like CBS Sports Network, NBCSN, Golf Channel and Big Ten Network, or regional sports networks.

What might be cut out of a sports-and-news-centered Hulu skinny bundle: channels like A&E, Adult Swim, Boomerang, Bravo, Cartoon Network, Discovery, Disney Channel, E!, Food Network, Freeform, FX, FYI, HGTV, History, National Geographic, Nat Geo Wild, Oxygen, Sprout, Syfy, TCM, TLC and Viceland.

Note that Hulu’s regular $40 live TV bundle does not include networks from AMC Networks and Viacom.

Last month, Hulu said it surpassed 1 million subscribers for the live-TV bundle (which includes full access to Hulu’s VOD library). The company launched Hulu With Live TV in May 2017.

Meanwhile, the future of Hulu’s ownership remains in question. Disney will obtain 21st Century Fox’s 30% stake in the joint venture, under the two companies’ broader pact, giving the Mouse House 60% ownership. Comcast/NBCUniversal is the other 30% owner (AT&T’s WarnerMedia owns the remaining 10%). Industry observers have speculated that Comcast could try to sell its stake to Disney and potentially pull back rights to NBCU programming for a Comcast-built streaming service.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • T.J. Dillashaw, right, kicks Cody Garbrandt

    Disney Plans UFC Broadcast for FX

    UFC matches will return to FX  – but not on a permanent basis. ESPN has been showing preliminary bouts to UFC pay-per-view events for the last while on ESPN and ESPN2, and then showing the main card on its ESPN+ subscription video service. In September, the early lineup will air on FX, which the UFC [...]

  • George RR Martin

    George R.R. Martin Says HBO's 'Game of Thrones' Ending Won't Influence Future Novels

    Geroge R.R. Martin is sticking to his original plan when it comes to the future of “Game of Thrones.” In an interview with The Observer, Martin claimed that HBO’s controversial ending for the series would have no affect on the endings of the last two novels. “No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t change anything at all,” [...]

  • Listen: 'Pennyworth' Producer Talks Delving into

    Listen: 'Pennyworth' Executive Producer Talks Delving into Alfred's Backstory

    Bruno Heller may have served as an executive producer on the Batman-inspired series “Gotham” for the past five years, but it’s actually real-life people (not superheroes) that intrigue the producer the most. It’s for that exact reason that Heller’s newest series finds him exploring the origin stories of Batman’s butler Alfred in the Epix drama [...]

  • "Trust Issues" - Dylan and Lizzie

    'Instinct' Canceled After Two Seasons

    CBS has canceled “Instinct” after two seasons. Series creator Michael Rauch announced the cancellation Friday on Twitter, writing, “I’m very sad to relay the news that @instinctcbs won’t be renewed for a 3rd season. We will double up this Sunday and our season/series finale will be Aug 25.” Rauch also thanked series stars Alan Cumming [...]

  • Maisel Day

    My Mostly OK Maisel Day (Column)

    When Amazon announced its first-ever Maisel Day, I was intrigued. For one day, Aug. 15, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” fans and Angelenos (fangelenos?) could hit up various restaurants, theaters and retailers throughout Los Angeles for special deals, all at 1959 prices. Among the gems: $2.50 makeovers, $0.99 pastrami sandwiches and $0.30 for a gallon of [...]

  • Nordisk Film & TV Fond Announces

    Nordisk Film & TV Fond Backs Joachim Trier, Ole Bornedal, Yellow Bird

    Nordisk Film & TV Fond has announced three features, two series and a documentary set to receive $1.4m in financing, as well as distribution, dubbing and cultural initiative support recipients. Doing so, it highlights some of the key titles moving forward in the Nordic region. Already backed by the Danish Film Institute’s largest ever grant [...]

  • TV News Roundup: 'Silicon Valley' Final

    TV News Roundup: 'Silicon Valley's' Final Season Sets October Premiere Date

    In today’s roundup, “Silicon Valley” returns to HBO on Oct. 27 and Quibi greenlights a new cooking competition show “Dismantled.” DATES The fifth season of Netflix‘s “Peaky Blinders” will premiere on the streamer Oct. 4. The newest season will continue to follow one gangster family in the lawless streets of Birmingham, UK during the midst [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content