Sprint to offer free Hulu service in bid to compete with rivals

By Anjali Athavaley

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Sprint Corp will offer its unlimited data plan customers free subscriptions to the streaming service Hulu LLC, the companies said on Wednesday, marking the latest move by a U.S. wireless carrier to bundle content with mobile service.

Under the agreement, Sprint’s unlimited plan, priced at $60 a month for a single line, will cover Hulu’s $7.99 a month basic subscription. The No. 4 U.S. wireless carrier is also working on plans to offer Hulu’s $39.99 live TV streaming service to customers next year, potentially at a discounted price, said Allan Samson, senior vice president of marketing at Sprint, in an interview.

U.S. wireless carriers are seeking ways to provide content to win over customers in a saturated market. In September, T-Mobile US Inc said it will offer free subscriptions to Netflix Inc with its unlimited data family plans. [nL4N1LN4LF]

AT&T Inc, which is in the process of buying Time Warner Inc for $85.4 billion, has already started bundling the premium channel HBO with wireless service. Earlier this year, Sprint tested a promotion with Dish Network Corp’s streaming service Sling TV in Chicago and Atlanta.

Sprint has been in the middle of a turnaround plan to cut costs and shore up cash. The carrier said earlier this month that it ended merger talks with T-Mobile because Sprint Chairman Masayoshi Son was not prepared to relinquish control of the company. [nL1N1NE1O1]

The agreement with Hulu gives Sprint an additional perk to offer subscribers as it plots a future as a standalone company. Consumers are using their mobile phones to stream more video, and offering Hulu helps Sprint differentiate its service, Samson said.

“We don’t necessarily believe you have to own the content,” he said. “What we have to do is have great partnerships where we can strategically put it inside our bundle.”

The partnership also enables Hulu, whose service is mainly geared toward younger audiences, to reach Sprint’s broader customer base of families as well as share in subscriber revenue, the companies said.

Hulu is owned by Walt Disney Co, Comcast Corp, Twenty-First Century Fox Inc and Time Warner.

(Reporting by Anjali Athavaley; Editing by Matthew Lewis)


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