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Hulu and Viacom Make Amends, Expand Partnership

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Viacom and Hulu are back in business together.

After yanking the popular Comedy Central shows The Daily Show With Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report off the video site last March, Viacom announced that it had come to an even broader agreement with Hulu than before.

As part of the new deal, Stewart and Colbert are back on Hulu while the Situation and Betty White will be available on Hulu Plus, the recently introduced subscription product.

In fact it seems that the emergence of Hulu Plus, which offers subscribers access to a broader and deeper array of series, including past seasons, may have made Viacom more amenable to a renewed partnership. While Hulu.com will again feature day-after episodes of Colbert and Stewart, six Viacom networks—Comedy Central, MTV, BET, VH1, Spike TV and TV Land—will begin delivering programming to Hulu Plus subscribers.

Among the shows that will be offered through Hulu Plus, 21 days after they air on TV, are MTV’s Jersey Shore and TV Land’s Hot in Cleveland. In addition, Viacom will distribute an impressive 2,000 episodes of older series, including The Chappelle Show, Reno 911, Beavis & Butthead and The Real World.

The Viacom pact can be seen as a solid and timely endorsement for Hulu, which has long been the subject of rumors regarding its potential demise. Earlier this week, Hulu was the subject of a lengthy piece in the Wall Street Journal, which suggested the company might undergo a drastic change in business model.

In a blog post on Wednesday (Feb. 2), Hulu CEO Jason Kilar openly discussed the rapidly changing landscape for TV and online video distribution, acknowledging the pricey competition among distributors for content and the increasingly erratic strategies among networks when it comes to distribution windowing strategies.

“Content owners will license their best content in the best windows to those distributors that pay the most on a per-user per-month basis,” Kilar wrote. “Content owners will bundle their content to the degree customers will respond simply because it is in the content owners’ economic interest to do so. If enough customers refuse to purchase their bundles, then the bundles will either be reduced in price/scope (possible) or dismantled (far less likely). Customers will ultimately make the decisions here.”

Kilar also took time out to knock TV for carrying too many ads while noting that Hulu is narrowing the gap with broadcast TV in terms of revenue earned per every half hour of content. “In the near- to mid-term, we anticipate being able to generate higher advertising returns than any traditional channel can from their advertising service, for any type of content,” Kilar wrote.