Dire news for folk who enjoy streaming TV online: Hulu is reportedly talks with TV industry partners to change the website’s model of distribution. The new system would require you to verify that you’re a paying subscriber to traditional cable or satellite TV service to watch some or all network TV shows.
Cable companies and TV networks may hope this shift will encourage you not to drop your cable subscription in favor of streaming, but the jury’s out on that; some consumers may choose just to stop watching shows that aren’t easily available online — if they haven’t already made that step.
Hulu was originally envisioned as a destination where people could watch the week’s recent TV shows streaming on the web for free, with ads to support those shows. And that’s what it has been for the majority of its life — though the service did add a new, subscription-based layer with more shows and episodes, along with the ability to stream to mobile or TV-connected devices like iPhones or Xbox 360s.
That subscription service cost less than $10 per month, like its closest competitor Netflix. Under this new plan, you’ll have to subscribe to Comcast, Verizon, or some other cable or satellite TV service to watch some or all of the content on Hulu, whether on the web, your phone, or your TV. Those services can cost anywhere from $40 to $120 per month, depending on the channel packages and options you sign up for.
Worse still, they sometimes require 2-year contracts or expensive installations and equipment — and you’re paying for dozens or hundreds of channels you aren’t interested in to get those few shows you do watch. This is exactly what the young streaming generation wants nothing to do with.
We already touched on Hulu’s troubles; the TV networks that back the company see more value for them and their longterm partners by adopting the Comcast “TV Everywhere” cable first, web second model. Hulu is producing original, web-only shows in preparation for the possibility that it could lose the ability to stream network and cable TV shows.
The reports indicate that this transition is still in the planning stages and will take some time. There’s no certainty about what will happen yet, but we’ll keep you posted.