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Hulu Adds ABC News Live, CBSN to Live TV Lineup (EXCLUSIVE)

Less than two weeks ahead of the 2018 U.S. midterm elections, Hulu is bringing ABC News Live and CBS NewsCBSN — two made-for-the-internet, 24-hour news channels — to its over-the-top live TV service.

Starting Thursday (Oct. 26), Hulu With Live TV subscribers will be able to tune to three news streaming channels: ABC News Live, CBSN and Cheddar, the startup news network that joined the lineup this spring. The $40-per-month package also includes traditional cable news nets CNBC, CNN, CNN International, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, and HLN.

For Hulu, ABC News Live and CBSN — both of which are available to watch for free on other platforms — let it plug in name-brand news programming essentially for no cost. The news orgs will expand their reach by getting in front of Hulu’s skinny-bundle user base, which last month hit 1 million subscribers.

“They’re a major player in the OTT space,” said Colby Smith, ABC News’ senior VP of content and partnerships. “We ultimately want [ABC News Live] to be ubiquitous – wherever cord-cutters and young audiences are.”

ABC News Live debuted on the Roku Channel in May, and has since expanded to Facebook Watch (a deal under which ABC News is receiving funding from the social platform). It’s also on ABC’s owned-and-operated properties, including ABCNews.com, mobile apps, and apps for Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV.

The focus for ABC News Live is on unedited live coverage, rather than on headline-roundup shows delivered by newsreaders sitting behind a desk or pre-produced shows (although it does mix in such conventional formats). Contributions come from all 1,300 staffers of ABC News around the world.

“We feel there’s a large, young audience disenfranchised with the cable-news format,” Smith said. “We’re trying to do something no one else is doing – it’s more live, in-the-field and raw, showing how news is gathered.”

On average, viewers who actively seek out ABC News Live now spend three hours per week watching the service, according to Smith. The audience “skews decades younger than TV,” said Smith, with a median age of under 40. ABC News Live is on track to soon stream over 1 million hours per week.

For now, ABC News Live doesn’t carry any advertising. Currently, ad breaks are populated by network promos. ABC News is aiming to start enabling dynamic ad insertion on the live-streaming service before the end of 2018, Smith said.

Disney, which owns ABC, is one of Hulu’s parent companies and is set to take over majority control of Hulu once its deal for 20th Century Fox assets closes. But according to Smith, the shared Disney parentage had no bearing on the Hulu distribution deal for ABC News Live: “We’ve been talking to Hulu for years,” he said.

CBS News’ CBSN, launched in 2014, joins Hulu With Live TV under an existing agreement between Hulu and CBS Corp. that brought CBS, CBS Sports Network and Pop to the OTT television service.

CBSN delivers live news coverage and reporting from CBS News’ journalists worldwide, and has aired 25 original long-form documentaries to date. CBSN also recently launched CBSN AM, its first live daily programming in the 7-8 a.m. ET hour.

In addition to Hulu, CBSN is available on CBSNews.com and the CBS News apps for mobile and connected-TV devices, as well as the CBS All Access subscription service.

“This is an important step in our ongoing strategy of expanding distribution of CBSN, now available on multiple [internet pay-TV services] as well as our CBS News digital platforms,” Christy Tanner, EVP and GM, CBS News Digital, said in a prepared statement.

Launched in May 2017, Hulu With Live TV includes live and on-demand programming from more than 50 sports, news, entertainment and kids’ channels, as well as access to more than 75,000 episodes in Hulu’s VOD library. The lineup includes ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox locals (in most markets) and national cable networks including ESPN, Fox Sports, TBS, TNT, CNN, CNBC, Fox News, Bravo, A&E, the CW and Telemundo.

Meanwhile, Hulu is mulling the introduction of lower-cost live TV bundles that would eliminate linear feeds of entertainment cable networks to reduce programming costs and improve margins. The company said it is in talks with programmers on creating skinnier bundles.

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