he Fox network says it will no longer offer free, next-day streaming of its TV shows over Hulu. Starting August 15, only viewers who pay for Hulu Plus, or subscribe to an approved cable or satellite TV service, will be able to watch episodes of The Simpsons or Bones the day after they air. Everyone else will have to wait eight long days. And another Hulu partner, ABC, might soon adopt a similar policy. Can Hulu survive this policy change?
Fox is hobbling Hulu: Fox appears to be "hamstringing Hulu," says Dan Rowinski at ReadWriteWeb. People hate it when companies mess with services they've "come to rely on, especially if they were once free." This could spark "a user revolt," or an outright boycott. And Fox could be harming itself, too, as it could lose valuable "extra eyeballs" for its ads on Hulu.
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This day was bound to come: This isn't "the end of the world," says Brian Barrett at Gizmodo. "Hulu Plus members are unaffected [and] eight days isn't an impossibly long time to wait." Regardless, people will just have to get used to this — Fox is the first network to hide its shows behind an authentification curtain, but the others will soon do the same. "The age of free internet everything is ending, but come on: did you really expect it to last?"
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Hulu's loss is pirate websites' gain: "It's perfectly logical for the TV networks to try to lock up their shows online," says Peter Kafka at All Things D. It just doesn't work. By making web surfers wait eight days to see new episodes, Fox is merely going to drive them to rogue websites, which post pirated versions of the shows, sometimes just hours after they air. The streams aren't in HD, and "they’re illegal, of course." But "they are free, totally serviceable, and very easy to find for anyone who’s remotely motivated."
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