While Apple fiddles with its long-delayed (dead?) Internet TV service and Sling TV and Sony PlayStation Vue strive to craft packages of network content that will appeal to a broad array of America’s increasingly Internet-only households, Hulu – which is owned by Disney, Fox and Comcast – which already offers an SVOD service – looks ready to jump feet-first into the virtual MVPD fire with live streaming content from at least two of its owners.
The Wall Street Journal, citing “people familiar with the plans,” this weekend reported that Hulu was planning a $40/mo. offering that would include ABC, ESPN and the Disney Channel, as well as the Fox broadcast network, Fox News, FX and Fox’s national and regional sports channels.
Hulu reportedly is talking with other programmers as well, looking to put together a skinny bundle to compete with Sling TV and Sony’s Vue – not to mention virtual services being assembled by AT&T and Verizon – for a share of the coveted Millennial audience, many of whom have not just cut the cord, but who have never had a pay-TV connection, cord nevers.
Hulu’s goal is to launch a service by the first quarter of 2017, the Journal reported.
But launching an Internet TV service is rife with peril. Apple, for example, was rumored to have been aggressively courting networks to be part of its own service a year ago, but has so far been unable to reach agreement with the networks it was so eagerly courting. At one point, CBS Chief Les Moonves said CBS would likely be a part of the service – despite having its own SVOD offering, CBS All Access, which features video on demand and live content. Apple apparently has shelved the idea.
But, assuming the Journal’s sources are correct, Hulu is in a much better place than Apple – after all, ABC and Fox are the networks that Apple – and Google before it – have had trouble convincing to partner in Internet ventures.
The fact that the two now are rumored to be near deploying their own service via Hulu – in competition with the pay-TV operators who funnel millions of dollars into their coffers each year in the form of retransmission fees – is an indication of just how far the networks’ attitudes on the basic nature of television have evolved.
It’s only been a year since Sling TV debuted its skinny bundle online and HBO Now and CBS All Access became the vanguard of a la carte for consumer.
The OTT floodgates have steadily been opening as content owners have looked to leverage their assets with niche SVOD services, and 2016 is shaping up to be a year that sees more OTT services deploy than ever before, including live premium sports content, the current Holy Grail of premium content.
We’re simply entering a news age of television that requires content owners to be nimble and flexible. A year ago -- even six months ago -- the pundits were sure a la carte and skinny bundles were unlikely to be very successful, arguing that consumers would have to pay more to get the content they wanted and arguing that networks would be unwilling to give up their massive retransmission fees by angering pay-TV providers.
But we're watching the new reality of television take form, one in which new business models are the norm (whatever they are), and the industry is changing how they view consumers.
Change is good. Don’t blink.
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