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WHEN: Today, Tuesday, June 19, 2018
WHERE: CNBC's "Squawk Alley " – live from Cannes Lions
The following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC EXCLUSIVE interview with Hulu CEO Randy Freer and CNBC's Andrew Ross Sorkin on CNBC's "Squawk Alley" (M-F 11AM – 12PM) today, Tuesday, June 19th. The following is a link to video of the interview on CNBC.com: https://www.cnbc.com/video/2018/06/19/hulu-ceo-media-battle-fox.html.
All references must be sourced to CNBC.
JON FORTT: CANNES LION, THE WORLD'S LARGEST FESTIVAL AND AWARD SHOW FOR THE ADVERISING COMMUNITY, HAPPENING NOW IN CANNES, FRANCE. OUR ANDREW SORKIN IS THERE WITH THE CEO OF HULU. ANDREW.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: HEY THERE. THANK YOU. WE ARE LIVE IN CANNES AND WE DO HAVE THE CEO OF HULU. RANDY FREER IS HERE, GOOD TO SEE YOU.
RANDY FREER: GOOD TO SEE YOU. THANKS FOR HAVING ME.
SORKIN: YOU ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NEWS, WHETHER YOU KNOW IT OR NOT. HULU IS THE CROWN JEWEL, OR ONE OF THE CROWN JEWELS, IN THE MIDDLE OF WHAT IS PERHAPS THE BIGGEST MEDIA BATTLE OF WORLD NOW, BETWEEN DISNEY AND COMCAST, ALL VYING FOR 21st CENTURY FOX'S ASSETS. AND YOU ARE ONE OF THOSE MAJOR ASSETS. SO YOU'RE WATCHING THIS AND YOU'RE THINKING WHAT?
FREER: WELL, I THINK THE KEY FOR US IS TO FOCUS ON BUSINESS. IF WE WANT TO CONTINUE TO BE VALUABLE TO WHOEVER, YOU KNOW, ULTIMATELY ENDS UP WITH A MAJORITY STAKE WE HAVE TO GET ABOUT OUR BUSINESS, ADDING SUBSCRIBERS, KEEPING THOSE SUBSCRIBERS AND REALLY DELIGHTING THEM WITH THE BEST CONTENT AND THE BEST VIDEO EXPERIENCE POSSIBLE.
SORKIN: DO YOU LOOK AT THE DIFFERENT POTENTIAL SUITORS AS, BY THE WAY, DIFFERENT PARENTS AND THINK ONE IS A BETTER OUTCOME THAN ANOTHER?
FREER: NO, I DON'T THINK ABOUT THAT AT ALL. AND EVEN IF I DID, I PROBABLY WOULDN'T ANNOUNCE IT HERE EITHER. BUT LOOK, I THINK ALL OF OUR OWNERS HAVE BEEN INCREDIBLY SUPPORTIVE OVER THE YEARS. AND ESPECIALLY IN MY TENURE SO FAR, DISNEY, FOX, NBC AND EVEN TIME WARNER, NOW AT&T, HAVE BEEN INCREDIBLY SUPPORTIVE.
SORKIN: LET ME ASK IT IN A DIFFERENT WAY.
SORKIN: WOULD IT BE BETTER TO HAVE ONE OWNER? MEANING, YOU HAVE MULTIPLE PARENTS NOW. YOU HAVE TO SERVE MULTIPLE MASTERS, I IMAGINE. YOU BUY CONTENT FROM A LOT OF THESE DIFFERENT PARENTS. IF THERE WAS ONLY ONE WOULD IT BE EASIER FOR YOU?
FREER: I DON'T THINK SO. I THINK THE BEST THING WE GET FROM ALL OF OUR OWNERS IS THE VAST AMOUNT OF RESOURCES THAT THEY HAVE. I THINK THE AMOUNT OF CONTENT BOTH THEY MAKE AND PUT ON THEIR NETWORKS AND MAKE AVAILABLE TO US, THE SUPPORT THEY PROVIDE, THE MARKETING OPPORTUNITIES. SO, LOOK, I DON'T KNOW IF ONE OWNER WOULD BE BETTER THAN THREE OR FOUR BUT WHAT WE KNOW TODAY IS THAT WE HAVE EVERY OPPORTUNITY TO DRIVE OUR BUSINESS FORWARD AND BE RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF WHERE CONSUMPTION IS GOING. EVERYBODY TALKS ABOUT OWNERSHIP, AND THIS, BUT THE REALITY IS THAT CONSUMERS ARE MOVING IN THIS DIRECTION IN RECORD NUMBERS EVERY DAY AND WE'RE HERE TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THAT MOVEMENT.
SORKIN: STRATEGYWISE, RIGHT NOW IN TERMS OF BUYING NEW CONTENT, EITHER FROM YOUR PARENTS OR NEW CONTENT CREATORS COMING WITH SHOWS, HAS THIS PERIOD OF UNCERTAINTY CREATED ANY KIND OF CONUNDRUM FOR YOU? DO YOU FEEL THERE IS A BIT OF A PAUSE UNTIL THE DUST SETTLES IF, YOU WILL?
FREER: I DON'T. CERTAINLY NOT IN MY TIME SO FAR. WE'VE BEEN ABLE TO – W'LL LAUNCH "CASTLE ROCK" IN A MONTH OR SO WITH JJ ABRAMS AND STEPHEN KING. WE PURCHASED "LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE," WHICH IS PRODUCED BY REESE WITHERSPOON AND CARRIE WASHINGTON. WE'VE ACQUIRED LIBRARY CONTENT. WE'RE MAKING MORE ORIGINALS. SO WE HAVE BEEN, QUITE HONESTLY, BLESSED WITH RICHES OF THE RESOURCES OF ALL OF OUR OWNERS AND I THINK A FRIENDLY ENVIRONMENT FOR CURATORS THAT OUR ORGANIZATION HAS -- CONTINUES TO DRIVE FORWARD.
SORKIN: DO YOU WANT MORE MONEY, THOUGH, TO BE ABLE TO SPEND ON CONTENT WHEN YOU SEE NETFLIX OUT THERE, SPENDING $8 BILLION?
FREER: WELL, LOOK, I THINK MONEY IS A RELATIVE TERM. I THINK IT'S HOW YOU SPEND THAT MONEY THAT IS REALLY IMPORTANT. AND WE'RE NOT GOING TO MAKE 800 SHOWS. I MEAN, NEXT YEAR WE'LL PROBABLY MAKE 20 OR 25. AND IT'S IMPORTANT TO US TO MAKE BIG, IMPACTFUL SHOWS THAT DELIGHT OUR CUSTOMERS -- THAT ARE RELEVANT AND ENTERTAINING AND HAVE CULTURAL CONVERSATIONS GOING. WE'VE BEEN – YOU KNOW, WE'VE BEEN INCREDIBLY BLESSED AND LUCKY WITH "HANDMAID'S TALE." AND SEASON TWO IS EVEN BETTER THAN SEASON ONE AND WE'RE REALLY LOOKING FORWARD TO SEASON THREE AND THAT PROCESS. SO WE'VE BEEN INCREDIBLY LUCKY TO JUST BE ABLE FOCUS ON OUR BUSINESS OF GROWING SUBS, WHICH WE'VE BEEN SUCCESSFUL AT, AND YOU KNOW, DOING OUR BEST TO KEEP THEM.
SORKIN: WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS OF THE AT&T/TIME WARNER TRANSACTION FOR YOU – THE WAY YOU SEE IT COMPETITIVELY?
FREER: I THINK TIME WILL TELL AS HOW IT SHAKES OUT – SHAKES OUT. I MEAN, CLEARLY THEY'LL HAVE A TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF CUSTOMER INFORMATION AND HOW THEY START TO TRANSFER VALUE FROM ONE PLACE TO ANOTHER. I THINK THEY ALREADY OFFER SOME DIRECTV NOW OPPORTUNITIES. SO IT'S AN INCREDIBLY COMPETITIVE ENVIRONMENT FOR OVER THE TOP LIVE TV AS WELL AS THE ON-DEMAND SERVICE AND I THINK IT WILL EVEN GET MORE COMPETITIVE AS MORE PEOPLE GET INTO THE MARKET.
SORKIN: TALKING ABOUT MORE PEOPLE GETTING INTO THE MARKET, AT&T – I'M SORRY, NOT AT&T, BUT APPLE ANNOUNCING A DEAL WITH OPRAH WINFREY. YOU READ THAT HEADLINE AND THOUGHT WHAT?
FREER: HOW DID WE MISS OUT? NO, I – LOOK -- APPLE IS A TREMENDOUS COMPANY. OPRAH IS A TREMENDOUS TALENT. YOU KNOW, I'M GLAD THEY WERE ABLE TO FIGURE SOMETHING OUT. I'M ALSO – YOU KNOW, I WISH IT WAS US, THAT WAS -- WE WERE ABLE TO DO SOMETHING WITH IT --
SORKIN: WHAT DO YOU THINK THEY'RE GOING TO BE ABLE TO DO?
FREER: THAT'S A BETTER QUESTION.
SORKIN: AND BY THE WAY, WHAT DO YOU THINK IT DOES TO DISCOVERY, GIVEN THAT DISCOVERY OWNS OWN?
FREER: SO THAT'S A BETTER QUESTION FOR APPLE AND DISCOVERY THAN IT IS FOR ME.
FREER: LOOK, I THINK TALENT SHOULD NEVER BE UNDERESTIMATED. AND OPRAH IS AN INCREDIBLE TALENT OVER A LONG PERIOD OF TIME. AND I'M SURE SHE'LL CREATE A LOT OF VALUE FOR APPLE IN THAT PROCESS.
SORKIN: THE WORLD CUP, OBVIOUSLY ONE OF THE GREAT BIG SPORTING EVENTS IN THE WORLD RIGHT NOW. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT LIVE EVENTS, LIVE SPORTS ULTIMATELY ON STREAMING?
FREER: YEAH, WE THINK LIVE EVENTS ARE INCREDIBLY VALUABLE. IF YOU LOOK AT – THE BEST -- THE BIGGEST EVENTS ARE BEST ON HULU IS SOMETHING WE LIKE TO DO. WE SEE OUR LIVE SUBSCRIPTIONS ARE UP 50% WEEK OVER WEEK SINCE THE WORLD CUP STARTED. SO WE'RE SEEING A BIG UPTICK AS PEOPLE COME IN, WANT TO EXPERIENCE THE LIVE --
SORKIN: WHEN DO YOU THINK THE BIG SPORTING RIGHTS GET ACQUIRED BY THE HULUs, THE AMAZONS, THE APPLES? WHEN IS EVERYONE JUMPING INTO THAT POOL?
FREER: I THINK AMAZON'S ALREADY BOUGHT SOME THINGS. TWITTER'S BEEN IN THE MARKET BEFORE. I THINK ULTIMATELY AS WE ALL GET ENOUGH CUSTOMERS WE'LL COMPETE FOR THE BEST PRODUCT THAT'S GOING TO ENGAGE THOSE CUSTOMERS IN THE BIGGEST AND BEST WAY. AND I THINK, HOPEFULLY, HULU WILL BE RIGHT AT THAT TABLE.
SORKIN: FINAL QUESTION. THIS IS A MARKETING AND ADVERTISING CONFERENCE. YOU HAVE – WELL, YOU HAVE MULTIPLE SERVICES, BUT YOU HAVE A SERVICE THAT INCLUDES ADVERTISING AND A PAID – AND A FULLY PAID SERVICE THAT INCLUDES NO ADVERTISING. BY THE WAY, I WAS THE CHEAPSKATE THAT STARTED WITH THE ADVERTISING AND THEN UPGRADED.
FREER: THANK YOU. WE APPRECIATE OUR CUSTOMERS.
SORKIN: LONG-TERM, LONG-TERM THOUGH, DO YOU SEE MORE PEOPLE DOING THAT OR WHERE DO YOU SEE ADVERTISING AND THE ROLE IN YOUR BUSINESS?
FREER: I THINK, FOR HULU, ADVERTISING CAN BE A STRATEGIC ADVANTAGE. AND YOU REALLY HAVE TO FLIP IT, THOUGH, AND COME BACK TO, YES, WE OFFER CHOICE FOR A NO-AD ENVIRONMENT. AND THEN YOU HAVE TO GET BACK TO IN THE AD ENVIRONMENT YOU HAVE TO GET BACK TO THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE, AND REALLY BRING TO THEM SOMETHING THAT IS OF REAL VALUE. WE'RE NOT LOCKED INTO A REAL FORMAT. WE HAVE HALF AS MANY – HALF AS MUCH COMMERCIAL LOAD TODAY AS LINEAR TV AND OTHER PLACES. BUT THAT'S NOT A FORMAT THAT WE'RE LOCKED INTO. WE CAN EXPLORE HOW WE BETTER TARGET, HOW WE BETTER ADDRESS ADVERTISING, HOW WE BETTER WORK WITH BRANDS TO BRING THE COMMUNITIES WHO LOVE SHOWS A BETTER WAY TO CONNECT WITH THEM.
SORKIN: RANDY FREER, CEO OF HULU, THANK YOU.
FREER: THANK YOU. I APPRECIATE IT.
SORKIN: COME ON BACK WHEN WE FIND OUT THE OUTCOME OF ALL OF THIS.
FREER: BE HAPPY TO.
SORKIN: CARL, I'M GOING TO SEND IT BACK TO YOU. IT'S BRIGHT OUT HERE SO I'VE GOT TO PUT THESE ON.
CARL QUINTANILLA: YEAH, GENERALLY SUNGLASSES ARE NOT – ARE VERBODEN ON LIVE TV, AS CRAMER HAS NOW MADE CLEAR.
SORKIN: I KNOW. BUT IT'S BRIGHT. IT'S BRIGHT.
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