Scripps Networks Wins Slots on Hulu's New Live TV Service

  • New streaming subscription includes more than 50 channels
  • Hulu says ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ is its most-watched original show

HGTV, the Food Network and Travel Channel are included in the new live web TV service from Hulu LLC, a big win for Scripps Networks Interactive Inc., the company that owns those cable networks.

Hulu unveiled the much-anticipated service at an event for advertisers in New York Wednesday, and Chief Executive Officer Mike Hopkins said the public can now use it in beta. The service, which will cost $40 a month, includes 50 channels, including the four major broadcast networks and a few dozen cable outlets. Most of the participating networks belong to Hulu’s parent companies, media giants Walt Disney Co., Comcast Corp., 21st Century Fox Inc. and Time Warner Inc.

Smaller cable programmers like Knoxville, Tennessee-based Scripps are jockeying for a position in this new crop of online TV services, called skinny bundles because they include fewer channels than most existing cable and satellite packages. Hulu will join a field that includes YouTube TV, AT&T Inc’s DirecTV Now, Dish Network Corp.’s Sling TV and Sony Corp.’s PlayStation Vue.

Learn more about the media industry’s skinny bundle experiment here

All of the services combine live feeds of different channels with large on-demand libraries of shows, and are designed to appeal to a younger, more tech-savvy consumer who doesn’t want a couple hundred channels or the impenetrable interface of many legacy cable and satellite packages.

“You shouldn’t have to think about whether something is live, recorded or on demand, or care about which device you’re using,” Hopkins said in a statement. “TV is about connecting with the shows, movies and sports you love – and we want to make that really easy for you, no matter where you’re watching.”

Each service has opted for a slightly different lineup. Dish mostly skipped the broadcast networks, opting for a mix of cable networks from companies including Disney and smaller programmers like AMC Networks Inc. and Scripps. YouTube and Hulu have made the broadcast networks and cable channels owned by the same companies a priority, while omitting programmers including Viacom Inc. and Discovery Communications Inc.

Scripps, with 2016 sales of $3.4 billion, has secured a position for its three most-popular channels in all of the new packages except YouTube. HGTV ranks as the fifth most-watched U.S. cable network, with a daily prime-time audience of 1.54 million viewers in the current TV season, according to Nielsen data. Both the Food Channel and Travel Channel rank among the top 25. Other Scripps networks, including DIY and Cooking Channel, will eventually join the Hulu package.

Hulu’s service is available starting Wednesday in a beta version on Xbox One, Apple TV, Chromecast and iOS and Android phones and tablets. The company plans to roll out the service to Roku, Amazon and Samsung devices soon.

Customers of Hulu’s live TV service will gain access to the existing on-demand service, which blends original programs “The Path’’ and “Casual’’ with a large reservoir of reruns from other networks. They can also pay extra to add on premium cable channels like Showtime and record more shows for later viewing.

The new live TV service hasn’t reduced Hulu’s appetite for funding more original programs. And while Hulu original series haven’t captured the same attention as those from rivals Netflix Inc. or Amazon.com Inc., the company appears to have its first big hit on its hands. Hulu said “The Handmaid’s Tale,” based on Margaret Atwood’s novel, was its most-watched original series in history.

The company also teased plans for new series from comedian Sarah Silverman and Marvel Entertainment. Hulu also said it has secured the rights to stream Donald Glover’s “Atlanta” and hit NBC dramedy “This Is Us.”

Hulu has announced its subscriber totals at its upfront presentations in the past. This year, it opted for a different number: total users, which can include multiple people watching shows on the same subscription. The company said 47 million people now use its streaming service.

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