Hulu has become even more of a major media company mashup. Tim Warner is joining Disney, Fox and Comcast with a sizeable ownership stake of the streaming entity, picking up 10 percent (culled from a cumulative drawing down of the thirds owned by each of the other big media co’s previously) for a reported $583 million. Hulu’s over-the-top bundle, which is set to launch sometime in 2017, will benefit from the deal with content from Turner networks.
Time Warner joining the party was discussed perviously, but the deal going down means it’s serious about beefing up its offering in the hopes of competing with other growing streaming players like Netflix and Amazon. Hulu, because of its close ties with the companies that control ABC, Fox and NBC, has been able to beat its competitors to the punch when offering viewers streaming access to network shows very close (generally the day after) their original air date.
Turner doesn’t have quite the mainstream broadcasting muscle, but it does own CNN, TBS, Cartoon Network, TNT and others. The ability to count its offerings among potential live, over-the-top streaming channels will definitely add to the niche appeal of any Hulu cable replacement bundle that makes an appearance next year.
Time Warner also owns HBO, but that brand’s offerings aren’t mentioned as being part of this deal, with the focus on Turner content for both Hulu’s current streaming video on demand, and future live streaming video platforms. An HBO tie-in could be a game-changer for any OTT replacement for cable packages, but Time Warner is currently charting its own streaming course on the HBO side with HBO Now, and likely wants to continue to own that avenue to viewers exclusively if it makes financial sense to do so.
The shift to OTT live TV services is likely inevitable, and recent efforts by companies including Twitter and Facebook to own live video (including content with the largest live audiences, like sports) presents a strong motivator for Hulu and others with more legacy roots to stake out their own territory in the bold new stream feature of TV.