CW drops out of Hulu, makes in-season OTT streaming exclusive to growing digital platforms biz

The current season of CW's popular Supergirl show will now only be available on the company's streaming service. Credit: CW

The CW television network appears to be refining its OTT streaming strategy this fall TV season by making its in-season streaming offers exclusive to its own CW-branded digital platforms. The move essentially removes CW programming from Hulu.

As part of its new strategy, CW also is expanding its streaming service onto almost every major OTT platform, including Apple TV and Roku.

“As before, the app does not require authentication (meaning you do not need a cable subscription to access the content),” CW spokesperson Alana Russo told FierceOnlineVideo. She said CW's shows have been available to stream for free the day after air on cwtv.com and the mobile and tablet app for the last few years. But now the service is available on more devices.

The CW is promoting the change not through a press release or announcement but by tweeting about it through its various shows' accounts, directing users to a “Notify Me” page on its website that boasts: “No login. No subscription. Just FREE.”

“The CW has actually had free next day, ad-supported streaming of all our primetime shows for the last several years [through Hulu],” Russo said. “The difference is that starting this fall, in-season streaming will be exclusive to The CW's digital platforms.”

Russo did not provide details on the CW’s streaming platform, including what vendors the company might be working with to expand its streaming capabilities.

CW’s decision to remove its content from Hulu and expand its own streaming options comes a few months after the channel – which is a joint venture between CBS Corporation and Warner Bros. Entertainment – announced that Netflix will remain the exclusive U.S. subscription television service for previous seasons of scripted series broadcast on the CW. “The new relationship spans all current CW series, as well as all future programs produced for the network during the term of the new agreement,” CW said in July of its deal with Netflix. The channel said the Netflix agreement kicks in starting with this 2016-2017 fall TV season.

Specifically, CW said Netflix members will be able to stream full seasons for each of its programs beginning eight days after each show’s season finale. And during CW’s current season, the channel’s programs – which include The Flash, Supergirl and Arrow – will now only be available on the company’s streaming service. That streaming service is now available across a wide range of devices and services including Chromecast, Airplay and Apple TV, Xbox, Amazon Fire TV, Android and iOS. “This Fall the CW is everywhere,” the channel boasts.

CW’s move comes as little surprise. Parent company CBS is working to expand its own streaming service, CBS All Access, by promising to offer a new Star Trek TV series exclusively on the platform.

The action also comes amid a growing appetite among consumers for alternatives to traditional pay TV. According to a recent survey by UBS, 37 percent of pay TV homes “indicated they were likely to consider V-MVPD, including a full 54% of Netflix households and 76% of likely cord cutters. Conversely, we found only marginal interest among non-pay TV HHs [households].” The firm described V-MVPDs (Virtual Multichannel Video Program Distributors) as players like Sling TV that aggregate a range of TV channels onto an internet-accessible service.

Related articles:
CBS, Warner Bros. discuss online version of CW
Netflix signs deal to stream CW shows earlier

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