Analysts differ on viability of Hulu’s live TV service

Analysts differ on viability of Hulu’s live TV service

By Joseph Williams

Following AT&T Inc.’s DIRECTV Now and Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube TV moves, Hulu LLC on May 3 dropped its expected live TV offering into a growing pool of digital bundles. Despite Hulu’s legacy as an early mover in the streaming video industry, analysts cautioned that it could be challenging to survive in an increasingly crowded streaming video market.

Perhaps Hulu’s biggest advantage is that it’s backed by 21st Century Fox Inc., Walt Disney Co., Time Warner Inc. and Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal LLC, plus CBS Corp. and A+E Networks. These partners will provide content to the platform. Hulu also reached a deal with Scripps Networks Interactive Inc., to feature HGTV (US), Food Network (US) and Travel Channel (US) on the new live service.

For Jimmy Schaeffler, chairman and chief service officer of media advisory firm The Carmel Group, Hulu’s partnership arrangement is a disadvantage.

“There is always that questions of how those mixed interests and passions reflect on every aspect of Hulu, and the greater OTT business, going forward. There are so many — arguably too many — core conflicts of interest, and it’s pitted against fierce rivals with much purer interests. Intra-industry competition will always be a unique challenge for Hulu, as it struggles to get its long-term message really polished,” Schaeffler said in an email interview.

Sentiment was not all negative. Catherine Warren, president of entertainment consulting firm FanTrust, said Hulu’s product seems very competitive, and while its partnership arrangement surely creates some friction, it also comes with its share of advantages. She was encouraged that Hulu’s new platform has a healthy mix of live and on-demand content, a DVR feature, and a very customizable interface so users can act like their own content programmers, and it offers access to Internet content alongside TV content.

Hulu’s live TV platform will also exclusively air “Atlanta” online, an acclaimed FX Network (US) comedy, signaling that the platform will benefit from exclusivity deals with its owners.

“That kind of deal is not as expensive as creating an original, but it is an unbelievable value for their fans and their new subscribers,” Warren said, adding that the ownership mix involved in Hulu will add diversity to the content and strategy.

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