As with most rumors, there is nothing verifiable about it but the slowness of the tech news cycle made a star of the Hulu skinny bundle story. Keep in mind, there is nobody to quote other than the Wall Street Journal who reported that someone said there was interest on the part of ABC and Fox in offering a skinny bundle featuring the content that they own. the rumored price of $40.00 is equally unverifiable. Let’s just get that clearly established.
Would the Content be worth $40.00?
It depends on exactly what would be included. The idea that Hulu’s major media backers may be looking at offering their own content as part of a live TV package should be a surprise to nobody. CBS has been marketing its own service featuring CBS content on demand and continually expanding the service’s ability to offer live streaming of local CBS feeds depending on the area where a subscriber lives. ABC/Disney and Newscorp/Fox would be following in the footsteps of both their network sibling. The difference between what CBS currently offers and the rumor involving Fox and ABC is the breadth of the offering as well as the price. Fox owns a number of content channels including its anchor broadcast TV network FOX, Fox News Fox Sports 1 Fox, a number of regional sports networks and Fox business. ABC/ Disney includes the entire family of ESPN channels, ABC, ABC Family, the Disney Channel and associated networks and even a 50% share of A&E Networks. There is a lot of content on the table there especially if a bundle could include the A&E properties.
Would Hulu’s On Demand content be included?
Hulu currently is the home to the majority of current on demand content from NBC, ABC and Fox as well as hundreds of other programs from cable networks and other broadcast properties as well. If a subscription to say the commercial free on demand Hulu service were included with all of that live content including multiple ESPN networks, Multiple FOX networks including the highest rated cable news network Fox News, the package could be appealing to those looking to shave back their pay TV bills and add more control over their ability to catch up on programming at their leisure..
Has Sling TV set a Precedent?
Sling Television currently offers two separate packages of programming as a starting skinny bundle. Both feature turner based programming like TNT and TBS as well as various lifestyle channels. Both of them are $20.00. The difference between the two besides the fact that one allows for multiple live streams at the same time is essentially that one package includes ABC/ESPN content and the other Includes Fox content like Fox News, Fox Sports and FX. Were customers to decide they wanted all of the content what would the price be. It would cost $40.00.
PlayStation Vue Also Follows that Model
PlayStation Vue another cable alternative also features Disney and Fox content as well as other networks as part of an entry-level package. It’s entry level package also costs $40.00. So it appears that through some process the powers behind the linear TV market have decided that the value of the content bundles featuring programming from Fox and ABC along with other filler is worth at least $40.00.
Would Viewers Be Interested?
From my experience cord cutters break down into different categories. There are those who just do not want to pay for anything they watch on TV. They choose to depend on Antennas, other entertainment options and or pirate content. And then there are cost conscious consumers concerned that prices for cable TV have reached too far. Bills over $200.00-$250.00 for existing customers lead people to look for alternatives. These are the customers who are willing to try out Sling TV, Hulu in its current form or those who choose Netflix and putting off series for later. While some erroneously argue that paying for high-speed Internet and a streaming service or two brings the cost of cord cutting to the same level as paying for cable the math does not support it. So there will be customers who may look at an $80.00 bill for TV service and Internet access as an acceptable alternative to $220.00 or higher cable bills.
Could Hulu confuse its customers?
I think so. The hardest thing to control as a company is how people talk about you. How do you get thick headed bloggers and reporters to understand what a service does and does not do when they are not invested in the actual success of a product. So if the narrative begins to be “Hulu the home of on-demand TV and a Skinny bundle starting at $40.00” people may not understand what it is that the company offers. Maybe they should call the new service “Hulu Pluss” Wouldn’t that be funny? The truth is that Hulu should consider a totally new branding for the service to avoid alienating possible customers and confusing people the way Amazon has over time by offering on demand titles for rent and for purchase alongside content that is free to video subscribers.