Hulu's 'annoying' cable TV deal: Will it wreck the streaming service?
In what seems like a very bad idea, the free online streaming service may require users to prove they have pay-cable before they're able to watch its shows
On Monday, a report in the New York Post suggested that Hulu, the wildly popular online streaming service, will eventually implement a new model requiring subscribers to authenticate a cable or satellite TV package to watch currently-free programming like The Colbert Report or South Park. The strategy, which has been widely criticized, is seen by many as a move on Hulu's part to appease its cable partners and maintain rights to stream their content. Nothing would happen for a while, says an insider source at TechCrunch. "Hulu and its content providers have talked about this move toward authentication since 2009." Hulu has "no interest" in being the first service to do so, and it would take time to implement the plan. Hulu currently draws 31 million unique visitors per month. Would consumers still use it if they were forced to pay for cable TV, too?
Such a deal would spell certain doom: No one in their right mind is going to spend $75 a month "to have a television at home just so they can watch the shows they want to watch on their computer," says Ned Hepburn at Death and Taxes. "This. Makes. Zero. Sense." I'd happily pay a monthly flat rate (see the current Hulu Plus model), but this authentication plan confirms that the big cable players just want to "squeeze the last dime out of our pockets because they know they are no longer relevant." "RIP Hulu – 2007-2012"
People will still pony up: An "authentication-ized Hulu wouldn't be the worst thing in the world," says Hilary Busis at Entertainment Weekly. For people who really care about getting their TV fix, "it's always made more sense to bite the bullet and pay for cable or satellite." There's really no way around it. Nowadays, a cable box and a reliable DVR are pretty much non-negotiable, especially for "overstuffed Sunday nights." "Hulu might restrict access to those with cable subscriptions — eventually"
Online piracy will skyrocket: The most appealing part of Hulu is the fact that it's free, says Eric Zorn at the Chicago Tribune. "When you start charging, there's nothing to stop consumers from going straight back to BitTorrent." What makes this purported deal so "annoying" is that in a couple of years, "the Hulu bigwigs will watch piracy stats go up, plead ignorance, and then lobby for a legislative solution" instead of taking it upon themselves to fix their business model. "Nobody wins here.""Hulu: 'Eh, go ahead, just pirate it'"