By Kevin Kelleher
March 1, 2019

Hulu’s live TV service has become the second most-popular “skinny bundle” streaming live-TV channels, behind only Sling TV, two reports said Friday.

Hulu + Live TV, which combines the on-demand programs on Hulu’s core site along with live access to select pay-TV channels, launched in 2017. Last May, Hulu announced it had signed up 800,000 subscribers. According to reports Friday from The Wrap and Bloomberg, Hulu + Live TV currently has nearly 2 million subscribers.

Sling TV, owned by Dish Network and a pioneer in streaming live TV via a digital platform, commands the largest share of the market with 2.4 million subscribers (at the end of 2018), the reports said. YouTube TV, a similar offering Google launched in 2017, has surpassed 1 million viewers.

The growth of Hulu’s and YouTube’s live-TV services is worrisome news to pay-TV incumbents, which have been seeing customers cancel their cable and satellite subscriptions in favor of streaming-video services like Netflix and Hulu. In response, those incumbents introduced digital skinny bundles—essentially, a smaller bundle of popular channels that can be viewed over a broadband connection.

DirecTV Now, the live offering from AT&T-owned DirecTV, lost 267,000 subscribers during the fourth quarter of 2018, bringing its subscriber base down to 1.6 million at the end of 2018. Hulu recently increased its monthly rate for live-streaming subscriptions to $45 from $40. Sling, meanwhile, has been offering discounts to maintain or add to its market share.

Hulu is jointly owned by Disney, 20th Century Fox and Comcast—each of which control a 30% stake in the streaming-video company—with AT&T’s WarnerMedia holding the remaining 10%. Disney may soon control Fox’s stake if its planned purchase of Fox assets is approved by regulators. AT&T was reportedly in talks this week to sell its 10% Hulu stake to Disney.

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