Hulu to sell Internet TV package with live programming
Hulu is expanding its Internet TV programming with a subscription service offering a mix of live cable and broadcast options that will include news and sports.
The move will pit 8-year-old Hulu, a streaming service created by TV networks to counter the threat posed by Google's YouTube, against similar cable-like bundles already being offered over the Internet by Dish's Sling TV and Sony's PlayStation Vue.
Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins confirmed his service's foray into live programming at a Wednesday presentation in New York. But he didn't providing many specifics, including how much a monthly subscription will cost or how many channels will be available.
"Very soon, fans will be able to enjoy favorite shows and cheer for favorite teams, all on Hulu," in a "deeply personalized experience," he said.
Hulu has connections in Hollywood because it is co-owned by three of the major players in cable and broadcast programming -- 21st Century Fox, Walt Disney Co. and Comcast's NBC Universal.
Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey said he believes programmers are testing the economics of live-TV subscriptions over the Internet with smaller platforms before they commit to major technology companies such as Apple and YouTube, which have both expressed interest in selling similar viewing alternatives.
Hulu expects to have 12 million subscribers by June, but YouTube's free website already attracts an audience of more than 1 billion people and Apple has built a fiercely loyal following among the customers who own its iPhones, iPads, Macs and TV-streaming boxes.
"No one is going to hand the keys of the content kingdom over to Apple or YouTube until they understand how this all works with the lesser players," McQuivey said.
Streaming services are trying to create alternatives to traditional pay-TV packages in an attempt to appeal to a growing number of Americans who are canceling or refusing to sign up for the networks bundled together by cable and satellite providers.
This audience of so-called "cord cutters" instead is gravitating to Internet video services from Netflix, HBO and Amazon.com that cost $8 to $15 per month and allow viewers to watch a TV show or movie whenever they want on a variety of Internet-connected devices. Hulu itself sells a commercial-free package of previously broadcast TV shows.
Now, the race is on to create subscription bundles of channels that can be watched live over the Internet.
Apple has publicly acknowledged its interest in offering a subscription package of Internet TV channels, but has reportedly been stymied in its attempts to reach licensing agreements with programmers.
YouTube also is also hoping to introduce an Internet subscription package featuring cable and broadcast channels by next year, according to a Bloomberg News report published Wednesday.
The service will be called "Unplugged," according to Bloomberg, which cited unidentified people familiar with its plan. YouTube, though hasn't yet signed any deals with programmers.
YouTube declined to comment Wednesday.
Separately, Hulu, which launched a virtual-reality app in March, said it will partner with event company Live Nation Entertainment Inc. to create a VR concert series later this year.
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