Hulu secures a new licensing deal with NBC in pursuit of ‘bingers’

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Hulu is looking to get more skin in the binge-watching game, inking a deal with Comcast-owned NBC Universal to stream past seasons of exclusive content in order to better compete with its streaming rivals.

The multi-year deal will secure Hulu the exclusive rights to prior seasons of popular shows from NBC’s vault, including “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” and “The Mindi Project,” (both of which air on Fox), as well as reality shows from NBC subsidiaries Bravo and E! such as “Top Chef.”

Reported by the Wall Street Journal, the Comcast deal is just one of several new moves Hulu has made recently in a shift in strategy. In February the company made similar deals with CBS Corp as well as Disney, both moves which greatly expand its reach into the “binge” worthy realm of popular shows that are not currently available from Hulu’s greatest opponent, Netflix. The CBS agreement secured the rights to past seasons of its Sherlock Holmes refresh, “Elementary,” while the ABC deal added “Nashville,” to the list.

Up to this point, Hulu has mostly been known as the go-to service for viewers looking to catch up on current episodes of their favorite series but, as the Journal reports, newly appointed CEO Mike Hopkins sees dipping into the deeper layers of popular shows as a must to keep viewers glued to the site. “The value of the current season to us has a limit,” Hopkins said. Viewing habits have changed rapidly as Netflix has secured its place at the top of the streaming mountain, and viewers increasingly want to journey through the full story of their favorite titles.

The Comcast deal, which broke this morning, shouldn’t have been much of a problem for Hulu to lockdown. Afterall, Comcast owns a chunk of the conglomerate-controlled service, as do other major network players like Disney (which owns ABC and ESPN) and 2oth Century Fox. While Comcast is barred by regulators from controlling Hulu, Disney and Fox are not, and the massive corporations have a big say in how Hulu operates.

Those deep ties to the the major networks are both a boon and a bain to Hulu’s plans for streaming domination, however. As the Journal reports, while Netflix, and to a lesser extent Amazon Instant, look to usurp pay-TV services like satellite and cable from their respective thrones,  Hopkins said one of Hulu’s major goals is to integrate more deeply with pay-TV, including landing in set-top boxes – not surprising considering the sources pulling the strings.

Ironically, Hulu, and more directly its pay service Hulu Plus, has become a tent pole in the “cord-cutter” tool kit, combining with Netflix and Amazon Instant to create the holy trinity of content for those who have left cable or satellite for greener pastures. It should be interesting to watch the company’s strategy moving forward as it walks a tight wire through what has become one of the most complex and entangled landscapes in the entertainment industry.

For now, with over 900 new episodes coming from NBC Universal alone, the company has made some good strides to assure its viewers keep coming back for more.

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