Hulu said today it has partnered with Disney and 21st Century Fox for its upcoming live TV streaming service, launching next year. The deals involve Fox’s news, entertainment, sports, and other properties, along with Disney’s portfolio of networks from is ABC Television Group and ESPN, among other things. In total, the two agreements will bring more than 35 TV networks to Hulu’s live TV service.
In terms of sports, the two deals will include Fox Sports networks (Fox Sports 1 and 2), BTN, ESPN networks, including ESPN1, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNU, ESPN-SEC, and Fox’s regional sports networks in dozens of markets. Meanwhile, other popular cable TV channels will also be included, like Disney Channel, Disney XD, Disney Junior, Fox News, Fox Business, Freeform, FX, FXX, FXM, National Geographic and Nat Geo Wild.
The addition of ESPN is especially notable, in light of the competitive landscape, which today includes Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, and AT&T’s forthcoming DirecTV Now service, for example. In fact, Sling TV made headway with a number of cord cutters when it first debuted as being the only way to access ESPN’s content without a subscription to a cable or satellite TV service. That has changed over time, however, as PlayStation Vue added the network back in March of this year. And DirecTV Now has also confirmed that Disney channels, ESPN and ABC will be a part of its lineup when it launches.
The announcement comes on top of earlier news from Hulu that it had also signed agreements with Time Warner for live and on-demand streaming of its networks, including TNT, TBS, CNN, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, truTV, Boomerang, and Turner Classic Movies.
The bigger picture here is that it doesn’t appear that these live TV streaming rivals will end up competing in terms of content and channel lineups – they’ll be trying to woo consumers based on other factors, like pricing, number of concurrent streams, multi-platform support and overall user experience. While AT&T’s DirecTV Now may have the edge in terms of tying its service to AT&T’s cellular network, offering things like streams that don’t count towards data usage, for example, where Hulu may have an edge is the user interface.
Though not as well-designed as Netflix, nor anywhere near as good at recommendations, Hulu’s interface is at least easy to navigate and use. The same cannot be said for Sling TV, however, despite upgrades. And it’s unclear how DirecTV’s service will stand up, in comparison.
Hulu also has invested in some exclusive content, like The Mindy Project, The Path, 11.22.63, Difficult People, and its Golden Globe-nominated series, Casual, which could give it the edge, as well.