Hulu CEO Randy Freer Talks Bidding for Sports Rights, International Expansion

RANDY FREER - Getty - H 2018
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Hulu

"We're a subscription-driven business, and we know that sports has a tendency to drive subscriptions," the executive said.

Hulu may one day compete for live sports rights.

"We're a subscription-driven business, and we know that sports has a tendency to drive subscriptions," CEO Randy Freer told attendees of the Business Insider Ignition conference on Tuesday in New York. "We will certainly be evaluating sports as an opportunity and hopefully be at the table when the time comes." 

Freer, the former co-president of Fox Sports Media Group, has the background to make the streamer part of the sports rights conversation, although soon-to-be majority owner Disney and founding partner NBCUniversal would also need to commit significant resources to Hulu so that it could be competitive when bidding for big-ticket events. 

Live sports would make sense for Hulu, given its recent push into the live television business with a TV-centric skinny bundle. While Hulu has yet to offer original live programming in addition to that bundle, it now has over 1 million subscribers who are used to watching live television on its platform.

During his talk, Freer also discussed the challenges of the television ecosystem today, noting, "It's crazy that we're still held hostage by the pay TV industry and the [most favored nation] world," meaning TV carriage deal clauses that force networks to extend the same terms to all distributors. "It's really hard to innovate, and I think we'll get through that in the next few years."

Added the exec, "The next decade, it's not going to be about aggregated linear TV networks or scheduled networks. What you're going to find is cable networks, in particular, that have been able to build a brand ... they're going to find a way to get to consumers and drive their business." The rest, Freer said, will be aggregated through a provider like Hulu. "We will sell most of the advertising in that plan."

Hulu currently has more than 20 million subscribers in the U.S., but Freer said he is eyeing 30 million-plus in order to truly scale the business. One way to do that would be through an international expansion, and the CEO revealed that he's "pretty excited about certain countries," adding, "We have support from ownership to drive that opportunity."