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Cable Technology Feature Article

November 13, 2013

Hulu Out To Join In Pay-TV Lineup

By Steve Anderson, Contributing TMCnet Writer

While Hulu (News - Alert) is well-regarded as one of the biggest outlets out there for the cable cutter—those who have eschewed cable's comparatively higher prices for the offerings found online—there are some reports that suggest Hulu is just as interested in working with cable as it is against it. The reports suggest that Hulu is already looking at several partnerships with cable providers, and that Hulu may play an unexpected new role in the home entertainment landscape.


Reports suggest that several ideas are currently being discussed, including the idea of using Hulu Plus—the subscription arm of Hulu—as a kind of full-season repository that can even be accessed through a cable box. The idea here is that subscribers could then use Hulu to catch up on currently-running series just ahead of the release of new episodes, or in general whenever users wanted to watch a particular show that couldn't be had elsewhere.


Currently, most cable providers—indeed, most networks as well—only offer a few episodes through on-demand services, and many of these episodes have expiration dates. Hulu basically wants to open up the floor and make it part of the larger cable lineup, giving people an easier way to access series episodes that viewers may have missed. Hulu is already, at last report, in talks with several cable providers, ranging from Comcast to Cox and Verizon (News - Alert), as well as some discussions with AT&T to bring Hulu Plus into AT&T's wireless bundle. However, any concrete deal is still said to be “months away.”


Comcast (News - Alert), interestingly, owns a piece of Hulu—this brings the issue of regulatory points into play—and concerns about cable cutters really catching on has been part of the overall gestalt for pay TV for some time. Thus, Hulu has been focusing on how Hulu can help subscription television, and right now, Hulu has one good point to its merit. Right now, trying to play catchup with a series can be difficult. There are feeds on different networks, on different mobile apps, and no two options seem to cover the same thing, let alone what all the viewers want. Hulu can serve as a kind of central point for old television, and leave the newer stuff to first-run networks.


While this sounds like a terrific idea—especially if Hulu Plus remains available without cable subscription—it's also going to prove a tough sell. The networks have put plenty of effort and investment into all those mobile apps, and many more are in the works, including offerings from FX Networks and Comcast's own Xfinity system. Smaller networks are said to be particularly interested thanks to Hulu's status as a widely-recognized brand name, and Hulu itself is eager to keep itself open to direct subscription.


It's a good idea for the user—the ability to go from “pilot all the way to last night,” as Hulu calls it, is valuable—and for Hulu as well, who will likely bring in more users and better fend off Netflix (who has also been looking into pay TV partnerships) and Amazon Instant Video's advances. Hulu also could stand looking in the direction of older television—some stuff simply can't be found most anywhere—to augment its lineup. But with cable providers hesitant, and cable viewers looking for better value, it's hard to tell immediately just how this whole mess will ultimately work out. Hopefully, though, everyone involved will get the best value possible.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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