Hulu may force viewers to prove they are pay TV subscribers

Hulu may force viewers to prove they are pay TV subscribers

Summary: A new plan would require users of the streaming video service to start authenticating that they are pay TV customers before they can watch programming.

TOPICS: Hardware

The "alien plot" that is Hulu (according to its whimsical commercials) may be taking a more nefarious turn, if a new report in the New York Post is to be believed. That's because Fox, Comcast (which owns NBC), and Disney (which owns ABC) apparently want users of the streaming video service to start authenticating that they are pay TV customers before they can watch programming.

The reasoning behind what would be a seismic shift in Hulu's strategy is obvious: The broadcasters make a lot more money from traditional TV viewership than people watching episodes online, where ads are fewer and cost less. Requiring a cable or satellite subscription would make sure people aren't using Hulu in order to "cut the cord" from pay TV.

While the Post says it could takes years for Hulu to be able to implement the authorization plan, the effects of the strategic pivot have already started to be felt, as Hulu partner Providence Equity Partners cashed out of its stake after the new model was hatched. And though ad revenues are climbing for Hulu, they could collapse if the number of users is sliced by the authorization plan.

Ultimately, that might be fine with the remaining partners, along with other pay TV providers, which would rather have you use their new and forthcoming streaming options (as part of your monthly subscription) than receive lower advertising fees from Hulu.

Would requiring authorization strangle Hulu? Would you still use the service (or even be able to use the service) if it required authorization? Let us know your thoughts in the Comments section below.

[Via Gizmodo]

Topic: Hardware

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  • Goodbye Hulu...

    ...we barely knew ye.
  • The Death of Hulu

    This pivot would be the death of Hulu, and actually seems to be quite a clever way of killing it. If I wanted to pay (!) for a service that merely allowed me to stream some of the content I'm already paying for in my cable TV subscription, I'd buy a Slingbox.
  • See ya!

    I would ditch them in 1.2 seconds. I already have to pay them for the honor of watching commercials, any more hoops and I'll just be 100% Amazon prime.
  • It depends

    We tried ditching cable to replace it 100% with Hulu and Netflix. I was okay with it, my wife on the other hand not so much. And there were plenty of shows that I missed being able to watch, but it was okay. I think this would come down to options, but maybe that's because I don't see myself getting rid of cable anytime soon anyway.

    1. Better availability of shows. If they want to force you to have service already to use Hulu then they need to have the vast majority of shows on Hulu Plus and available within hours of air time, or coincide with broadcast airing.

    2. A Hulu "Premium" that doesn't require cable service. I'd pay $30/month, maybe $40, if I could have it on 3-4 devices at the same time with all the services listed in point 1. If they worked out a deal with CBS/NBC/Fox where they would also stream football games and they upped the quality on this service to 1080p I would switch from Cable in a heartbeat.

    Will this happen? Probably not. The networks won't cut reasonable deals for services like this because of the cable companies.
  • This is a really bad idea, so, obviously, the networks love it

    The networks started Hulu to discourage pirating. So, by requiring users to subscribe to cable, the networks are saying they're OK with people pirating?

    Obviously, I'd cancel Hulu if they required "authentication." I don't have cable because I don't want to pay $90 a much for a bunch of channels I don't watch. I use my Windows 7 machine as a DVR, and most of what I stream from Hulu, I could just as easily record over the air.

    My question is, how long before the networks try to kill free broadcast television?
    • question

      My question is, how long before the networks try to kill free broadcast television?
      just take a look at the various rules being implemented by the FCC.
    • .2 second ditch

      No more bad. And no I would not go through the HULU hoop to authorize.
    • they already killed broadcast television

      digital broadcasts only work if you're not in a city, otherwise forgetaboutit. we are owned by our corporations. Learn to read a book. Oh yeah, the libraries are going out of business too....
      sparkle farkle
      • Um...what are you talking about...

        Digital broadcasts are generally better if you live in a city, due to increased demand, having richer network affiliates, and being closer in proximity to them. You may have problems in certain parts of the city. Some of these problems always existed (if your reception is blocked by a concrete wall for instance), but some are now worse due to the technical issues with digital. For instance, if you live in between a bunch of tall buildings (and not on the top floor), any broadcast channels you receive are probably bouncing around off all those buildings. In the old days of analog, this created the "ghosting" and over-saturation effects you might have noticed. With digital however, this can potentially ruin the entire transmission. Switching to a directional antenna may partially resolve this problem unless it's really bad, in which case the only solution is to move.
  • When commercials were introduced

    to the original cable subscribers, it's been all downhill from there. Content providers lost control of the cost of delivering content passing it all down to the consumers being unable to make ends meet with commercials and now with streaming video providers and worse, streaming video providers producing original content, the traditional system is becoming desperate and about to collapse. In a capitalist society, this must be allowed to happen for there to be any betterment to what we have now.
  • Sounds like death to me

    I already barely watch Hulu, spend much more time on Netflix so any more trouble to access Hulu will simply mean goodbye.
    • Have to kind of agree.

      The only reason I watch shows on Hulu is a) it comes on too late at night, or b) I missed watching it live (either too busy or the channel doesn't come over the antenna).

      And yes, you heard that right: I do have antennae hooked up to my 2 TV sets (although the converter for the 13" doesn't work). And that's the problem I have with this: Hulu doesn't just show cable TV shows, it also shows broadcast network shows. It would be one thing if they were only going to restrict the cable-only shows, like Psych, Eureka, or Warehouse 13; it's another thing entirely for them to restrict shows like Castle, The Finder, or Bones... all of which are already available [b]for free[/b] from the network.

      The other major problem? It's one thing for a premium network to say you have to "prove" that you're a cable subscriber to use the online site (i.e. HBOGo), because the cable/satellite company does collect a specific fee from a subscriber in order to have access to that particular network. It's even broken down on your bill, so you (the consumer) can see exactly how much you're paying for access to The Borgias, or Game of Thrones, or any of the other premium networks' special TV series. But USA, SyFy, TNT, TBS, Bravo? You [b]don't[/b] have a set monthly charge for that particular network. You don't even have anything on your bill that says, "$X from your monthly plan goes towards access to all NBC Universal-affiliated channels, while $Y is for access to the FOX network channels, etc.". And even if they did, it's what, not even $1/month? When I had DirecTV, we paid (IIRC) about $50/month: no premium channels, none of the "Plus" plans, no DVR service, just basic service on a single TV. With the number of channels we had access to (not counting the local broadcast affiliates), that worked out to somewhere between 30 and 50 [b]cents[/b] per month per channel. Except even that's too much, because I would bet around 50% of the cost was for the DirecTV portion of it: their satellites, their infrastructure, paying for their employees' wages/benefits/401k, etc. Which drops the price down to about 15-25 [b]cents[/b] per channel per month.

      Yet, for that amount of revenue, they would want me to pay $50 or so per month for, essentially, 2 to maybe 5 channels? That was the reason we cut it in the first place: of the 100+ channels we had access to, we would regularly watch maybe [b]10[/b] of those on a regular basis (i.e. at least twice/week), with maybe another 10 or so that we used maybe once or twice a month; and even then, this was before we had Netflix, so we sometimes had to struggle to find something we really wanted to watch, even on those channels. Now, I love Eureka, Warehouse 13, & Psych...but I don't think they're worth $50/month to get the 2 channels they're on.

      So if they do decide to go this route, [b]and[/b] they decide that even a Hulu Plus subscription won't give you access, then I will say goodbye to Hulu, & simply wait until after each season to catch up with it on Netflix, or maybe get a DVD recorder for the TV set to catch the programs that run too late on ABC & Fox.
  • Well...

    If this happens, I would expect Hulu to skip the Premium portion and allow anyone with a subscription access to Hulu on Roku, GoogleTV, TV apps, etc without having to pay as long as they confirm they have Pay TV service.
  • Suicide

    This would be suicide for Hulu. The most likely result would be to push people back toward piracy. I can't believe they think there are many people willing to pay multiple times for the same content, especially now that Hulu has about the same ad-time as television.

    If you have to subscribe to pay TV in order to watch Hulu, you'd be better off just getting a DVR with your TV subscription. A much better plan would be to offer free Hulu Plus accounts to people with active pay TV subscriptions. I would think that would allow them to increase the user base dramatically, thus increasing the rates for ads.
  • greed

    guess hulu is gone for me too.
  • So...

    ...content companies are just hell bent on pushing people towards piracy.
    I'm telling - in 10-20 years there won't be any disney or fox or comcast around. Evolution you know...
    • Lawyers

      "I'm telling - in 10-20 years there won't be any disney or fox or comcast around. Evolution you know... "

      Lawyers are exempt from evolution. They will be left behind to enforce archival Int.Prop. until it expires, even if the owners have passed.
  • So...

    So Hulu+ goes from being a cheaper alternative to outrageous Cable pricing, to being a $9.00 surcharge on top of outrageous Cable pricing?

    LOL, good luck with that one!

    I suspect Hulu is contemplating this as a way of scecuring content from rights holders, but ultimately it will be the death of Hulu. Why pay extra for Hulu when cable comapnies already offer on-demand services?
  • Hulu on the Netflix Road

    Hulu doesn't have the variety of content Netflix has and really think they can make this new "subscription" model work? I subscribed to Hulu Plus to see what content they had...and cancelled before the next month. Where's the content? Same reason I finally cancelled Netflix...I can watch legacy movies and programs on AMC, TNT, TBS, USA, A&E etc. Online movie services are just plain awful.

    I no longer subscribe to "movie" packages on cable either. Slim pickings and once you've watched the 2-3 movies you want to watch each month it's like a movie desert.

    What we need is to end the cable monopoly and we'll see "online" entertainment expand exponetially and costs go down, down, down. And broadband access would be cheaper and faster. More ala carte and you could afford several services for the same price we pay today.
    • Yep! Choice is what people want

      People want to be able to choose what they watch whenever they want. The broadcasters have not yet figured out that no matter how many more channels they add, the solution to "consumers want narrowcasting" is NOT, "let's add more bandwidth to traditional broadcasting!"

      And so, we get stuff like this from Hulu. Like one of the above posters said, with so much invested in their old technology, the networks have no choice but to try and force people on to it. And eventually their model will fail, and we'll get something better.