Tuesday, April 28, 2015, 3:59 PM ET|Posted by Will Richmond
Today Cablevision announced a first of its kind distribution deal with Hulu. The deal follows the introduction of Cablevision's new low-cost "cord-cutter" package (broadband plus a free OTA antenna) last week and its agreement to promote the new HBO Now OTT service. Given all of this I think it is now virtually guaranteed that Cablevision will soon announce that it will also distribute/promote Netflix.
Although a number of smaller pay-TV operators have partnered with Netflix, Cablevision would become the largest U.S. operator by far to do so. As I wrote last week, it's quite confusing to figure out whether Netflix is friend or foe to the TV industry, though for pay-TV operators like Cablevision there are some clear benefits. These include providing a better user experience, gaining leverage in their negotiations with cable/broadcast TV networks and enhancing their broadband services.
Given Cablevision's recent moves, it seems to be now fully prioritizing the broadband side of its business, recognizing that the landscape has dramatically shifted. For Netflix, this is a big opportunity. In other parts of the world, Netflix has become a preferred partner of operators, but in the U.S. it has been mostly stymied. Despite the rise of connected TV devices, being bundled onto an existing pay-TV set-top would help put it on a level playing field with other networks. And Netflix would no doubt love any additional promotion as it tries to penetrate more mainstream audiences.
There have been lots of fascinating moves in the pay-TV industry so far this year (e.g. Sling TV, HBO Now, Verizon-ESPN) and a Cablevision-Netflix partnership would be just the latest.