A new agreement between Hulu and ViacomCBS will bring 14 new channels to Hulu’s live TV streaming service, while also renewing the deal that allows Hulu to carry various CBS broadcast stations and Showtime. According to ViacomCBS, the new multiyear distribution deal will for the first time allow Hulu + Live TV subscribers to stream cable networks like BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network, VH1, CMT, Nick Jr., TV Land, BET Her, MTV2, NickToons, TeenNick and MTV Classic.
With the Hulu agreement in place, the two top live TV streaming services available in the U.S. will now carry the ViacomCBS channel lineup. Hulu + Live TV is the largest of the two, with 4.1 million subscribers as of Disney’s Q4 earnings. Meanwhile, YouTube TV has 3 million subscribers, as of Alphabet’s Q4 earnings.
ViacomCBS had forged its agreement with Google-owned YouTube TV earlier in 2020, which introduced the same channel lineup and had allowed the streamer to keep carrying CBS broadcast stations and the premium subscription channel Showtime.
Hulu + Live TV will now also be able to continue to carry CBS stations including CBS Sports Network, Pop TV, Smithsonian Channel and The CW, as well as Showtime.
Offering the ViacomCBS cable lineup to live TV streamers represents a different strategy than Viacom had in the past, before the 2019 merger with CBS. In previous years, it allowed a deal with Hulu to fall through as well as those with other streamers, like the now-shuttered PlayStation Vue. In the meantime, the company focused on more traditional carriage agreements with pay TV operators.
During its first full year as a newly combined company, ViacomCBS in 2020 has pursued a different course. It got the major carriage deals done with Comcast, Dish, Verizon (TechCrunch’s parent), Nextstar, Meredith, Cox and Sinclair, but it also hashed out agreements with YouTube TV and Hulu for incremental revenues.
For streaming service customers, however, these deals aren’t always welcome. While it’s nice to gain access to new channels, agreements like this have also resulted in increased subscription prices. YouTube TV, for example, hiked its price 30% in June 2020 due to the addition of the ViacomCBS channels.
Hulu announced in November 2020 that it would also raise the prices of its Live TV service to $65 per month starting on December 18, 2020, due to the rising costs of programming. It didn’t attribute the price hike to any specific deal at the time, but it now seems clear the ViacomCBS-led expansion of its Live TV service was a factor in that decision.
The ViacomCBS deals with YouTube TV and now Hulu do raise the question as to how the company plans to attract customers to its own forthcoming streaming service, Paramount+. The service, which will be an expanded and rebranded version of CBS All Access, is set to launch in 2021. Though ViacomCBS channels are not its only draw, they do make up a fair bit of its offering, in addition to the library content, CBS channels and original series, like the new “Star Trek” shows.
“We are excited to have reached an expanded agreement with Hulu that underscores the value of our powerful portfolio of brands to next-generation TV platforms and viewers,” said Ray Hopkins, president, U.S. Networks Distribution, ViacomCBS, in a statement about the new deal. “Hulu continues to be a great partner, and this agreement ensures that Hulu + Live TV subscribers are now able to enjoy the full breadth of our leading content across news, sports and entertainment for the first time.”
ViacomCBS didn’t specify when the new channels would become available on Hulu with Live TV.