Hulu just took a major step toward becoming a premiere live-TV streaming service.
The streaming video site racked up another big deal with major TV networks for its live-TV streaming service that will launch next year. Inking a deal with Walt Disney and 21st Century Fox that will add more than 35 TV networks, including ABC, ESPN, and Fox, Hulu is ensuring it will be a major player in a crowded field vying for cord-cutters. It's also further upending the traditional TV landscape.
The new deals follow another agreement Hulu signed with fellow parent company Time Warner, which brought on board channels such as CNN, TBS, and TNT. (The deal with Time Warner came as part of that company's agreement to buy a 10% stake in Hulu for $583 million, in August.)
Hulu currently offers on-demand video content from current and past series, most of which are owned by its parent companies, with roughly 12 million subscribers who pay as much as $11.99 for a monthly subscription. (Like rivals Netflix and Amazon, Hulu also produces its own original content.) In addition to the 10% stake owned by Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting System, Disney, 21st CenturyFox, and Comcast's NBCUniversal each own a 30% stake in Hulu.
In a press release on Tuesday, Hulu described its live TV streaming service as "a complement" to its current on-demand service.
Securing a deal with Disney and Fox is a big win for Hulu's planned live-streaming service, adding the premiere cable sports network, in ESPN, along with the Fox Sports networks. And, in addition to the major broadcast networks ABC and Fox, the deal also includes live content from FX, FXX, Fox News, and the Disney Channel, among other networks.
Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins called the Disney and Fox channels "essential" to his company's plans. Hopkins said in a statement: "We’re building a service that offers subscribers the most sought-after programming on television . . . With these two new deals in place, and additional partners to come, Hulu will soon give TV fans of all ages live and on-demand access to their favorite programs in a whole new, more flexible, highly personalized way."
Hulu's close ties to content providers like Disney, Fox, Time Warner, and Comcast could give the streaming service a leg up in what is shaping up to be a competitive field.
In addition to Hulu's planned live-streaming service, Google has reportedly signed a deal to carry CBS content on its own planned live online television service, called YouTube Unplugged, which is also set to launch next year. And, Apple is constantly rumored to be planning something similar. Meanwhile, AT&T is planning to debut a similar service, DirecTV Now, later this month, joining live-streaming subscription services already offered by Dish Network (Sling TV) and Sony (Playstation Vue).