Monday, December 11, 2017
Business

Time Warner invests in Hulu in win for cable cord-cutters

NEW YORK — In another win for cable cord-cutters, Time Warner has become the latest media company to invest in streaming service Hulu.

The move could boost the viability of an online television service that Hulu is expected to launch next year as an alternative to cable. Sony and Dish already operate online TV services, while Apple has expressed interest in one, according to published reports. None of those companies, however, has the networks themselves as full partners or owners, the way Hulu does.

Time Warner, which owns HBO, TNT and TBS, took a 10 percent stake in Hulu for $583 million, in another step blurring the lines separating cable TV from Internet video services. Hulu's other equity stakeholders include the parent companies of ABC, Fox and NBC — Walt Disney Co., 21st Century Fox and Comcast's NBCUniversal, respectively.

Time Warner said Wednesday that its networks, such as TNT, TBS, CNN and Cartoon Network, will be available as part of Hulu's upcoming online TV service. But the companies did not specify which Time Warner shows will be added to Hulu's current offering of on-demand shows.

It's also not known how HBO will fit in with either offering. Hulu already has a deal with CBS to carry Showtime for an extra fee, while HBO has a similar arrangement with an online TV service called Sling TV.

Hulu, founded in 2006, has built a name for itself by offering the ability to stream popular shows from broadcast and cable networks, typically the day after they are shown on TV. Hulu also creates its own shows, including comedies like Casual and Difficult People. Together with Netflix, Hulu has made it easier for people to drop cable or satellite TV services completely. Current seasons of many hit shows are available for streaming.

Access to live sports has been difficult without cable, though. But some of Time Warner's networks have been strong in that area, and by including those channels in a live-streaming service, Hulu makes cord-cutting even more viable.

Nomura analyst Anthony DiClemente said signing up Time Warner turns the Hulu live offering into a more "robust" product with all four big media conglomerates on board.

Time Warner's deal with Hulu comes almost a month after Comcast said that it's adding Netflix to its X1 set-top boxes, another move from a traditional media titan collaborating with a streaming media site.

There also may be more competition soon, as U.S. regulators are weighing new requirements that would require the TV industry to allow technology companies such as Google and Apple to sell cable boxes, too. Those boxes have become a major source of revenue for cable providers, generating more than $200 per year in leasing fees in the typical U.S. household.

If cable boxes are sold by technology companies, they will likely feature more Internet applications, stepping up the pressure on incumbent providers to adapt.

New York-based Time Warner also said Wednesday that net income for the April-July quarter fell 2 percent to $952 million, while revenue fell 5 percent to $6.95 billion.

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