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Disney CEO Bob Iger Bullish on Hulu Live

10 May, 2016 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger

Following the recent announcement that Hulu plans to launch an online TV platform next year, Bob Iger, CEO of The Walt Disney Co., co-owner (along with Comcast and 21st Century Fox) of Hulu, said the subscription streaming service has become more than an important investment.

Speaking May 10 on the company's fiscal call, Iger said that in addition to being a distributor of programming, Hulu is a buyer of original programming and future distributor of Disney’s channels.

“We think they have a great opportunity to become an OTT/MVPD, because they can leverage their current [12 million] user base. And they also have a good user-interface,” he said.

The executive said the pending Hulu Live is looking for a “best of cable” approach, which Iger suggested would position it price-wise between basic cable and skinny bundles. Iger said Disney is “aligned” with 21st Century Fox, which manages Hulu. Comcast, due to a regulatory agreement, is a silent partner.

Iger said the fact Comcast owns NBC Universal and Hulu underscores Disney’s ability to also own and operate networks (ABC TV and ESPN) and OTT video.

“We don’t there is any negative impact what so ever to us going into the [digital] business of distributing our channels. We like their strategy from a pricing perspective and what their ultimate consumer offering is.”

He said the SVOD marketplace is dynamic and Disney continues to look for opportunities to sell content. He said Marvel’s original series (“Daredevil” and “Jessica Jones”) for Netflix underscore IP opportunities in streaming video. Disney will continue to sell original content under its banner, Marvel and possibly Lucasfilm going forward.

“There are many opportunities to sell content and a fairly voracious marketplace for that content right now,” Iger said.

The executive said upstart SVOD service DisneyLife is an experiment to see how consumers react to Disney-branded SVOD, pricing, and whether the technology works. Disney is looking at additional foreign markets to launch DisneyLife.

“The transition from free-to-pay has gone really well,” Iger said.

Separately, the CEO characterized as “encouraging” last year’s inclusion of ESPN with Dish Network’s Sling TV and Sony’s PlayStation Vue. Iger said broadband-delivered online TV platforms typically offer consumers superior mobility options and user-interface, among other advantages.

“They did contribute incremental subs for ESPN in this last quarter,” he said, adding the platforms provide consumers with cost-effective access to pay-TV. “We feel good about what we’re seeing.”

Disney remains in negotiations with Dish to contribute programming to Sling TV’s recent multi-stream platform launch. It is also in discussions with current and new OTT distributors.

“All have expressed an avid interest in having ESPN and other channels in their initial offering. This is all very positive for us,” Iger said.


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