AUSTIN, TX — At a moment where many cable subscribers are cutting the cord and looking for a new option, representatives from Hulu, YouTube and Amazon took to the stage at SXSW to talk about the state of the over-the-top industry.
Even though Sling, PlayStation Vue and DirecTV Now were conspicuous by their absence, Hulu's Richard Irving (vice president of product management), Christian Oestlien (director of product management) and Kathy Payne (head of content acquisition management for Amazon Video Channels) provided insight into their services.
For starters, Irving explained his theory about "The Vicious Cycle of TV," saying that customers get tired of paying too much for bulky cable packages, ask for discounts, get those savings with bundled deals from providers which require more equipment, leave when their contracts are up and restart the pattern with a new vendor, when they're available.
Irving also explained that even with its new live-TV service, the majority of content watched on Hulu (54 percent to be precise) is on-demand programming, and not live. Oestlien said that YouTube TV is the opposite, with more of their activity coming from live events, such as sports and news. Irving noted that pageantry also drives traffic for Hulu with the Thanksgiving Day and Tournament of Roses parades.
While both YouTube and Amazon broke into live TV recently, they came in from different angles. Consistently well-performing TV excerpts on YouTube told the streaming company that there was reason to expand, while Hulu's audience told them that on-demand and original content isn't enough, as watercooler moments come from events on live TV.
When the conversation turned to customers turning on streaming services some day for how many you need to get the content you want, Payne boasted that Amazon Channels service offers a purely a la carte method, where you buy individual channels you want, and avoid paying for any you don't need. Channels' Prime Membership requirement went unmentioned.
Oestlien piped up to mention that if you subscribe to YouTube TV before Tuesday (Mar. 13), you can avoid the $5 price bump that will go into effect. In terms of where this industry is going, Oestlien talked about how software could be written around TV, someday down the road.
Irving then highlighted a couple of ways Hulu is pushing things forward, starting with streamlining ESPN's Megacast, the 5-channel blitz that spreads college football championship games across multiple networks. Hulu's also just launched a new feature in its ads, where audiences can now buy movie tickets by tapping through the trailers playing in commercial breaks.