Hulu May Require Cable Subscription For Free Streaming

While Hulu offers a "Plus" subscription service granting users access to its entire list of TV and movie programming for desktop and mobile devices, it also provides a free-but-limited streaming service to the desktop only. Now there's a rumor that Hulu may alter the latter free service so that users must prove they’re currently subscribers to a local cable TV plan provided by Comcast, Time Warner and others in order to stream TV content.

According to the New York Post, the 31 million users of the free Hulu service may eventually be required to log in with their cable or satellite TV account number. Inside sources claim this is a result of Providence Equity Partners' move last week to cash out of Hulu after five years. They also indicated that it's nothing personal -- Comcast is even reportedly moving to an authentication structure with TV Everywhere and this summer's Olympic Games.

Hulu, which is owned by Comcast, Disney, News Corp and Providence, is expected to see a drop in traffic if the authentication model is set in place. But it could be years before such a measure is implemented. Of course, Hulu's fate will be determined on how the streaming wars will be carried out as cable operators move online and dish up their own streaming services -- Hulu may not even be around in a few years if competition gets too intense.

The big fear for cable companies is that users are trying to "cut the cord," watching their favorite content online instead of using a cable box. On the contrary, consumers merely want multiple platforms, to not be tied down in front of the living room TV. As Hulu and Netflix have demonstrated, viewers enjoy movies and TV shows on their desktops and mobile devices no matter where they are. Instead of handcuffing customers, these companies should embrace the change.

But what's at fault here is Hollywood and its dictating ways. Piracy would likely be at a bare minimum if content could be displayed when and where the consumer desires. But instead, content owners enforce restrictions, thus cable operators must do the same. People seemingly are willing to pay for streaming to their tablet or smartphone while also watching the same content on their big living room HDTV. Amazon, Apple and now Walmart are even proof that consumers are willing to invest in content that's stored in the cloud.

According to the Digital Entertainment Group, overall spending on home entertainment jumped 2.5-percent to $4.45 billion in the first quarter as streaming helped offset the continuing collapse in video rentals. Hulu itself took in around $420 million in ad revenue in 2011, and expects to do extremely well this year.

Kevin started taking PCs apart in the 90s when Quake was on the way and his PC lacked the required components. Since then, he’s loved all things PC-related and cool gadgets ranging from the New Nintendo 3DS to Android tablets. He is currently a contributor at Digital Trends, writing about everything from computers to how-to content on Windows and Macs to reviews of the latest laptops from HP, Dell, Lenovo, and more. 

  • Plasmid
    In other news Hulu goes bankrupt and the C.E.O cries himself to sleep that day :|
  • BS they are trying to commit suicide. This will force many that had a free alternative to go back to pirating.
  • jackbling
    They should be happy with the money they are receiving; many users will simply resort to downloading in lieu of using the service.

    It is crazy to me how much money is thrown around on contrived ratings, and demographics; social engineering at its finest.

    Firefly - 1 season
    Jersey Shore - 5ish?

    Can we just have a global systemic meltdown already? Im ready for my desert roving, and razor sharp boomerang.
  • spasmolytic46
    Remember when Comcast bought in to NBC and they told us it would be good for consumers? Ha, suckers always fall for that unregulated capitalism BS.
  • livebriand
    Screw you Hulu, I cancelled my cable service several years ago and have absolutely no intention WHATSOEVER of going back. If you're going to require me to have cable to use your site, I'll pirate stuff instead (as if they always forget about that option that consumers have when making these decisions).
  • freggo
    PlasmidIn other news Hulu goes bankrupt and the C.E.O cries himself to sleep that day :|
    Hulu may go but I am 100% sure the CEO and upper management are well taken care off.
  • matt_b
    The big fear for cable companies is that users are trying to "cut the cord," watching their favorite content online instead of using a cable box.
    Well no ####, that's the whole reason many people have gone this route. For roughly $9 a month, Netflix and Hulu pretty much fill the void left by overpriced cable/satellite TV. I want to watch what I want and preferably when I want, why would I want to support and pay for the other 3/4 of the programming that is absolutely useless?
  • classzero
    Cut the cord, and never look back.

    "I want to hear you make decisions without your television"
  • AznCracker
    I don't even watch tv. only hulu. So if they force people to pay for it, ill be in the dark :(
  • sanirudh
    This is good news - I don't mind paying for cable and having Hulu.