For starters, the Internet-based entertainment hub is in early discussions with a number of pay-TV providers about potential partnerships. The media company-owned service is attempting to become part of pay television. One of the ideas being discussed centers around pay-TV operators carrying the company’s subscription service, Hulu Plus, as part of their programming bundles.
At one point, Hulu had ambitions to come in and change the future of television by shaking up the status quo. Under the guidance of Fox television executive Mike Hopkins, the company is signaling to industry players that it’s interested in a more congenial relationship.
Looking to increase access to its service and programming
The company also hopes that consumers would have the option of being able to access the service through their cable set-top boxes as part of a deal. Subscribers would then be able to watch full seasons of broadcast TV shows, which are Hulu’s primary product offering. Most cable companies currently only offer a few recent episodes of shows as part of their on-demand services.
The service, which was launched in March 2008, became popular very quickly due to its ease of use. Within 12 months, it ranked second only to YouTube in online video views in the U.S. according to comScore, the measurement firm. At that point, entire seasons of popular cable network shows such as “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” were taken off the site and others were only available on an eight-day delay.
Last July, a proposed sale was abruptly cancelled. Instead, the company’s owners, 21st Century Fox, Walt Disney Co. and Comcast, announced instead that they would invest $750 million into the company instead.
In talks across the board
Hulu is in discussions for potential partnerships with Time Warner Cable Inc., Comcast Corp., Cox Communications Inc., AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. Hulu has also discussed arrangements with AT&T to offer the Hulu Plus subscription service with AT&T’s wireless broadband offerings.
While the companies are several months away from signing any deals, there is lots of new movement and momentum. Hulu hopes that by offering its service as part of a bundle to pay-TV subscribers it will help to accelerate growth, which in turn will help it compete with giants like Netflix and Amazon.com. Unlike Hulu, both of these providers carry past seasons of programs.
Offering more seasons of shows
Hulu also plans to compete by buying more prior seasons of cable and broadcast shows so that it can offer complete series offerings on demand for as many of them as possible. It also hopes to offer original TV programming, such as the series “The Wrong Mans.”
The company will face an uphill battle to make this goal a reality. Big pay-TV providers and TV channels have already committed to investing in their own apps and websites, including Hulu’s owners. Disney has a suite of “Watch” branded apps for ABC, ESPN and other Disney cable channels that allow pay-TV customers to stream shows live. Fox also has an app and FX Networks plans to release one by the end of the year.
Lots of changes in a short time
The company is owned by networks that provide its content, and it has been through a number of significant changes during the past three years. Since September, its head of development, Charlotte Koh, has renewed two series, “The Awesomes” and “Behind the Mask.”
Lionsgate also announced in August that it would be partnering with Hulu for a supernatural comedy called “Deadbeat.” Koh stated recently that Lionsgate would be a key candidate for Hulu to work with because the company has a slightly younger audience. She said that Hulu is gearing up for its 2014 NewFront and that its owners are allowing the company’s original content to “evolve naturally.”
So, what’s ahead for Hulu?
All signs point to great growth and innovation on the part of Hulu. It will be exciting to watch how it uses strategic partnerships, original programming and new technologies to compete with the “big boys” and continue to make waves in its own right.