Hulu is now officially part of Cablevision's channel lineup.
After announcing plans to resell Hulu almost a year ago, Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) has unveiled a new service integration with the online video provider, giving Hulu LLC its own channel as part of the Optimum cable TV service. Thanks to technology from ActiveVideo , which renders online content as an MPEG video stream, Cablevision is rolling out Hulu on channel 605 for Optimum TV subscribers willing to pay an extra monthly fee. Hulu -- which is co-owned by Walt Disney Co.-owned ABC, 21st Century Fox and Comcast-owned NBCU -- offers a basic subscription service for $8 per month, and a commercial-free option for $12 per month.
Cablevision has been a vocal proponent of over-the-top video, doing deals with several online video providers and even promoting a "cordcutter" package that pairs a free over-the-air digital TV antenna with Optimum broadband service. (See Cablevision Embraces OTT With Hulu.)
The latest move with Hulu, however, introduces a significant twist to the OTT narrative. In the Cablevision scenario, Hulu becomes an alternative on-demand content solution or a new premium channel, depending on how you look at it.
From an on-demand perspective, Hulu gives Optimum TV viewers a library of content that includes recent and previous-season episodes from current TV series. It's a relatively simple way for Cablevision to bulk up its on-demand catalog without over-burdening a legacy VoD delivery system, and without requiring the cable operator to go out and forge new content agreements with multiple programmers.
On the other hand, the Cablevision implementation might be better described as a way of bumping Hulu up to HBO-like status. The OTT service has relied primarily on syndicated network content for years, but more recently it's started promoting its own original programming as well. By becoming a premium channel in the Optimum TV lineup, Hulu has an opportunity to extend its audience reach with new content along a path already well-worn by brands like HBO, Showtime and Starz.
The deal with Cablevision isn't the first time ActiveVideo has helped bring OTT content to the television screen. In Hungary, ActiveVideo has partnered with Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY) to offer YouTube as part of that operator's pay-TV bundle. According to ActiveVideo CMO Murali Nemani, viewers were streaming more than a million YouTube minutes per day within four months of launch in 2014. Today, that number has doubled. (See also Cable Subs Hungary for YouTube.)
ActiveVideo also has a significant deployment underway with Charter Communications Inc. in the US, although that partnership doesn't involve OTT video. Charter is using ActiveVideo's cloud-based platform to introduce its advanced Spectrum TV user interface to more of its customer footprint. With the ActiveVideo technology, Charter can deliver the sophisticated Spectrum UI even to its subscribers with older set-top equipment.
For many years, ActiveVideo was its own independent enterprise. However, last year both Charter and Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS) swept in to buy out the company in a joint venture exercise. Arris owns the majority of ActiveVideo now with a 65% share. Charter owns a 35% stake. (See Arris, Charter Nab ActiveVideo for $135M.)
Cablevision is up for its own acquisition. French company Altice announced a $17.7 billion bid to buy out Cablevision last fall. However, that deal is still under regulatory review. (See Is Cablevision Turning Its Ship Around? and Altice Confirms $17.7B Bid for Cablevision.)
— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading