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Viacom Exclusion From Hulu Bundle Begs Question of Which Networks Lose in Musical Chairs

Viacom (VIAB) won't be on Hulu's multichannel pay-TV service that is expected to launch sometime this spring for about $40 per month. It's also not set to be a part of Alphabet's (GOOGL) YouTube TV.

Discovery Communications (DISCA) , Scripps Networks Interactive (SNI) and AMC Networks (AMCX) also have yet to secure deals with Hulu's digital TV service or YouTube TV. At least for now.

The jockeying for placement on so-called virtual pay-TV services comes as cable TV operators and most TV networks are seeking ways to offset steady declines in subscribers. Hulu's as-yet-unnamed bundle and YouTube TV both are expected to launch in the coming weeks, setting up more competition for AT&T's (T) DirecTV Now and Dish Network's (DISH) Sling TV as well as Sony's (SNE) PlayStation Vue.

To differentiate their products and keep down their monthly subscriber costs, operators are becoming more selective. When possible, they're opting for skinnier bundles than the 100+ channel bundles that cable TV and satellite operators traditionally have offered.

That means that Viacom's flagship networks, the six on which new CEO Bob Bakish recently said the company plans to focus, won't be on two of the new online pay-TV platforms. Viacom's channels also are no longer part of PlayStation Vue after it cut ties in November. Not being included on the new digital services could prove costly to Viacom at a time when Bakish is making sweeping changes to the company's cable TV network group in hopes of reversing declines in ad sales and the fees it receives from pay-TV operators.

"We currently have...