Hulu officially confirms cable-like digital bundle, says it's set to reach 12 million subscribers

Hulu, the streaming service owned by major TV networks, confirmed that it is developing a cable-like digital service that would stream feeds of live programming from broadcast and cable TV channels.

Chief Executive Mike Hopkins said the service is expected to launch in 2017 and would enable subscribers to be “able to enjoy live sports, news, and events — all in real time, without a traditional cable or satellite subscription.”

The announcement was made during Hulu's presentation to advertisers Wednesday at Madison Square Garden Theater in New York.

The Santa Monica-based company is in active negotiations with Disney, Fox and NBCUniversal for access to their broadcast and cable networks, which include ESPN, Disney Channel, Fox News, FX and others.

“We’re going to fuse the best of linear television and on demand in a deeply personalized experience,” Hopkins said. He offered no other details on the planned service, which underscores how TV networks are trying to adapt to changing consumer habits.

Wednesday’s roughly 90-minute presentation was hosted by “Broad City’s” Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson. Hulu serves as the exclusive streaming home to several Comedy Central series, including “Broad City,” as part of its Viacom deal.  

Hopkins touted the rapid growth in the company’s subscription video space over the last year. Hulu, a joint venture between major TV network owners 21st Century Fox, Walt Disney Co. and NBCUniversal, will reach 12 million paying U.S. subscribers by the end of May, up 30% from a year ago, according to Hopkins. By comparison, Hulu is one-fourth the size of Netflix, which has 47 million U.S. subscribers.

The increase in subscribers follows a year of heavy investment by Hulu in original programming and high-powered licensing deals it has signed with TV studios. In addition to launching five new original series, Hulu announced it had landed the streaming rights to the entire “Seinfeld” library, as well as licensing and output deals with AMC, Discovery, Turner Broadcasting, FX Networks and premium movie network Epix. It also began offering Showtime’s standalone streaming service as an add-on.

“If 2015 is the year Hulu broke out, 2016 is the year Hulu goes bigger and bolder,” Hopkins said.

Craig Erwich, head of content at Hulu, announced renewals for “The Path” and “The Mindy Project,” taking the series into their second and fifth seasons, respectively. Erwich also hyped up what it has in the pipeline, including the Hugh Laurie drama “Chance,” and the psychic crime drama “Shut Eye.”

The streamer also announced the launch of Hulu Documentary Films, a collection of documentaries exclusive to Hulu, including “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week,” an upcoming feature-length documentary from director Ron Howard focusing on the band's early career.

“This is something really special,” Paul McCartney, joined by Howard, said via satellite. “The film brings back a lot of great memories for me of my bandmates. We’re excited to share it with you.”

Additionally, Hulu announced a partnership with Live Nation Entertainment to present select concert performances from popular artists in virtual reality. Fans will get to hang out backstage with artists before a performance and experience what it’s like to walk onstage in front of a roaring crowd. A launch date and featured artists will be announced at a later time.

The VR music initiative deepens Hulu’s commitment to virtual reality. Hulu has added six pieces of virtual-reality content, including a piece featuring its series “The Path,” since launching its VR app in March.

MORE:

Hulu may see this as 'The Path' to a cult following. And Emmy nods

Turner's FilmStruck streaming TV service will bring art house movies into homes

How the Comcast-DreamWorks deal came together so fast

ESPN and Vice Media join forces on programming

yvonne.villarreal@latimes.com

Follow me on Twitter: @villarrealy


UPDATES:

2:22 p.m.: This article was updated throughout. 

This article was originally published at 8:16 a.m.

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
90°