Hulu strikes deal to live-stream CBS network in upcoming service

Shown is a scene from a November episode of "The Big Bang Theory," which runs on CBS.
(Monty Brinton / CBS)

Streaming service Hulu on Wednesday notched a major agreement with CBS Corp. to provide a live stream of CBS, the nation’s most-watched television network, as part of Hulu’s upcoming TV-channel service.

Santa Monica-based Hulu plans to launch an over-the-top package of channels in the coming months to compete with Dish Network’s SlingTV, Sony PlayStation Vue and DirecTV Now, which all offer streams of traditional broadcast and cable TV channels.

“To build a successful live TV service, you have to have viewers’ favorite sports and shows — and CBS’ programming is absolutely vital to that mix,” Mike Hopkins, Hulu’s chief executive, said in a statement.

Sports programming, including NFL football and NCAA championship series basketball games, will be included in the CBS network stream. Other live events televised by CBS, such as the Grammys, will be part of the package.


For years, CBS had been the lone holdout among major TV broadcasters to do business with Hulu. That’s because Hulu is owned by NBCUniversal, 21st Century Fox and Walt Disney Co.’s ABC — longtime rivals of CBS.

The Hulu deal does not represent a wholesale change in strategy for CBS. Episodes of CBS shows, such as “NCIS,” “Mom” or “The Big Bang Theory,” still will not be offered through Hulu’s established $7.99-a-month video-on-demand service.

CBS plans to continue to use its programming to boost its own streaming service, CBS All Access, which has nearly 1 million subscribers.

Instead, live streams of the CBS network feed as well as the company’s two cable channels, CBS Sports and Pop, will be offered through Hulu’s upcoming “skinny bundle” service, which is expected to cost consumers about $40 a month.

“Today’s announcement represents another significant step in our strategy to deliver CBS’s industry leading content to viewers whenever and wherever they want to watch it, at terms that are consistent with the company’s goals,” said Ray Hopkins, CBS’ president of television networks distribution.

CBS shares jumped 2%, or $1.33 a share, to $65.72 on Wednesday.

Traditional companies are scrambling to keep up with changes in technology and consumer behavior. Lower-cost streaming services have become increasingly popular among consumers who don’t want to shell out $100 or more a month for a traditional bundle of TV channels.

Hulu’s skinny bundle service, as well as the Sony PlayStation Vue and Dish offerings, are designed to compete with traditional cable and satellite TV providers, such as Charter Communications, AT&T’s DirecTV and Cox Communications.

CBS already makes its programming available to Sony PlayStation Vue and plans to provide its CBS feed for an upcoming Google YouTube TV channel service. Some of the CBS programming will be available for later on-demand viewing for subscribers of Hulu’s TV channel offering.

Hulu has agreements in hand with Fox and Disney to include their TV channels in Hulu’s planned skinny bundle. Those deals allow Hulu to distribute live streams of Fox, Fox News, FX, ABC, ESPN, Disney Channel and Freeform as part of the planned service.

Hulu also last year lined up an affiliate deal with Time Warner Inc., which owns 10% of Hulu, for live and on-demand streaming of Turner channels, including TNT, TBS, CNN, Cartoon Network and Turner Classic Movies.

Twitter: @MegJamesLAT


2:30 p.m.: This article was updated with CBS’ closing stock price on Wednesday.

This article was originally published at 1:55 p.m.