Hulu Wants Even Skinnier Bundles

Hulu offers more subscription options than just about any other streaming service. 

It has on-demand and ad-supported options, ad-free tier and Hulu with Live TV, its “skinny bundle” offering, which provides users with live streams from more than 50 broadcast and cable channels, as well as on-demand content.

All those tiers have add-ons offering additional screens, or premium channels, or an expanded cloud DVR for the Live TV offering. According to an interview that Hulu CEO Randy Freer gave to The Information, those offerings may need to expand further.

Freer said the company is talking to its programming partners about offering new packages of channels -- packages that may nix live streams of some channels. Instead, it will offer entertainment programming on an on-demand basis only.

The thinking is that Hulu could save money by cutting costs associated with offering live-streaming video in favor of more cost-effective on-demand streaming. Hulu would not abandon live video altogether (sports and live events like The Oscars), but with fewer consumers feeling the need to watch a new episode of a comedy or drama live, the end could justify the means.



It is also a strategy that few other "skinny" streaming bundle providers are pursuing.

Sling TV, DirecTV Now and YouTube TV all emphasize live content, although AT&T is pursuing a non-DirecTV branded service that would focus on on-demand content.

In the medium and long term, Freer says Hulu will ramp up its spending on original content. It ultimately hopes to be a “wholesaler” of other streaming services alongside its own offerings, becoming a competitor to Amazon Channels.

Disney will assume majority control of Hulu once its acquisition of the 21st Century Fox assets is complete. In earnings calls, Disney CEO Bob Iger has positioned Hulu as an adult-focused service that can live alongside the company’s upcoming, family-focused Disney service, set to launch next year.

With its emphasis on subscription bundles and eventually aggregating other services, Freer seems to be setting up Hulu as more than a streaming content provider, but as a gateway to content from a slew of companies, Disney, HBO or others.

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