Hulu scored a major investment and a cache of high-profile channels for a live-TV service it plans to launch next year, as key programmer Time Warner agreed to buy a 10 percent stake Wednesday.
The streaming service, which is owned by three of the country's main broadcast networks, plans to launch a paid option next year that broadcasts live TV over the internet. On Wednesday, Time Warner's Turner bundle of networks became the first to sign on. Turner channels to be available live on Hulu include TNT, TBS, CNN, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, TruTV, Boomerang and Turner Classic Movies.
The deal doesn't include Time Warner crown jewel HBO, and it doesn't put any on-demand shows from the company on Hulu's Netflix-like service of TV repeats and originals.
It is Hulu's first solid step toward its ambition of being a pay-TV replacement for consumers shifting their video viewing online. With a live service including Turner, Hulu will widen its identity beyond that of Netflix rival. The company is aiming to be the go-to place for cord cutters and young people looking for live television when they decide against the traditional pay-TV package.
The Time Warner investment "marks a major step for Hulu as we continue to redefine television for both consumers and advertisers," Mike Hopkins, CEO of Hulu, said in a release.
But competition is already diverse in that emerging field. In addition to traditional cable and satellite offerings, Hulu will go up against Dish's SlingTV and Playstation's Vue, which offer monthly online subscriptions to live TV channels. Individual networks like CBS and, yes, Time Warner's own HBO have launched stand-alone streaming apps. And Apple has been haggling with programmers for more than a year about launching a television service, without success so far.
Hulu is a joint venture by ABC parent Walt Disney, Fox owner 21st Century Fox and NBC parent Comcast. Those three owners were already working with Hulu this year about including some of their programming in the separate live-TV service. Hulu announced its plans for the service in May.
The companies didn't disclose the financial terms of Time Warner's stake. Recode reported Time Warner paid about $580 million for 10 percent, valuing Hulu at about $5.8 billion, based on an unnamed source.
Hulu lets US consumers stream its catalog free with advertising. Its paid memberships unlock its originals and offer some shows earlier than free viewers can see them. With a $7.99 monthly membership, Hulu reduces the number of adds, and an $11.99 monthly subscription removes commercials entirely. It hasn't detailed the price or terms of its live-streaming service yet.