Comcast/NBCU in talks to compete with itself in Hulu skinny bundle

Tuesday, May 3, 2016 | By Daniel Frankel

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Comcast's NBCUniversal (NASDAQ: CMCSA) unit is in talks with its partners in the joint venture Hulu, Disney and Fox, about joining the duo in providing networks to a live-streamed Hulu skinny bundle.

According to the major showbiz trades, NBCU is the early phases of these negotiations. NBCU controls the NBC broadcast network, along with cable channels including Bravo, USA and Syfy.

It was reported Monday by the Wall Street Journal that Disney is on what would be a ground-shifting Hulu product, providing ABC, ESPN and the Disney Channel. Fox, meanwhile, will offer up the FOX Broadcasting, Fox News, FX, Fox Sports 1 and its regional sports networks. The IP-only pay-TV package will reportedly run about $40 a month.

The WSJ report said Hulu is aiming to launch its pay-TV service in the first quarter of 2017.

As part of its regulatory conditions for the 2011 NBCU purchase, Comcast is more restrained than Disney and Fox in terms of management of Hulu. And Comcast, of course, has its own cable operations to think about.

Hulu has so far declined official comment, but the company is set to make its annual upfront presentation to advertisers Wednesday.

The prospect of an SVOD platform operator owned by three of the major programming conglomerates cutting out the middle man and distributing their goods through their own extension of the pay-TV ecosystem is something the major MVPDs will be watching closely in the months ahead.