Iger Backs Hulu Live Streaming Plan

Says online video service would make good MVPD
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Walt Disney Co., chairman and CEO Bob Iger backed Hulu’s plans to offer a bundle of pay TV channels through its own live streaming service, adding the online pioneer could be an attractive alternative for consumers.

Hulu unveiled plans to offer its own skinny bundle of live sports, news and events last week. Disney is a partner in Hulu along with 21st Century Fox and Comcast.

Iger said Hulu had the potential to become a formidable multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) by offer a “best of cable” package to consumers. Hulu hasn’t said how much that package will cost or when it would be released and Iger wasn’t offering any further insight. But he said that Hulu’s moves shouldn’t upset Disney’s current distribution partners, many of whom – like Comcast’s NBC Universal – have their own programming assets.

“We don’t think there will be any negative impact whatsoever to us going into the business of distributing our channels,” Iger said.

Iger said that Disney has had talks with several other distributors about its content, including Sling TV, which introduced a multi-stream package last month that included Fox sports channels but no ESPN. Iger said that Disney had had talks with Sling about the multi-stream product but was not able to reach an agreement by the launch date. However, Iger said he met with Dish Network chairman and CEO Charlie Ergen last week (Dish owns Sling) and has had discussions about being included in the multi-stream product.  

The Disney chief had little to say about the abrupt departure of chief operating officer Tom Staggs, who many believed was Iger’s heir apparent. Staggs announced his resignation in April. His last day at Disney was May 6 but he will remain as an advisor to Iger through the end of fiscal 2016.

Iger said he was sorry that Staggs decided to leave, calling him a “colleague and friend,” but said the Disney board had ample time to find a new successor. Iger’s current employment deal with Disney has another two years left and the chairman and CEO said he has no current plans to extend it. That could leave the door open to him staying on past that date, but at least for now, Iger said he has no plans to stay beyond his agreed upon term.

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