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Hulu Free Is Dead: What's Left?

In a move that won’t surprise anyone who’s visited the Hulu homepage recently, the free tier of Hulu's streaming service is coming to an end. Instead, Hulu will switch to a subscription-only model: $8 per month for a version with ads, and $12 for a version without.

Penny-pinchers should take comfort, though: Hulu’s generous store of free content won’t disappear completely. Instead, it will move over to a new Yahoo service called View.

Yahoo made the announcement today (Aug. 8) and hopes that Yahoo View will complement Tumblr, the microblogging forum/teenage angst repository that Yahoo bought a few years back.

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“As a TV junkie and Tumblr fan myself, I’m personally excited to have one place that brings together the best of free TV and Tumblr fandom,” said Jess Lee, Yahoo’s vice president of Lifestyles Product.

Indeed, Tumblrites have a lot to look forward to. Hulu’s most prominent free offerings were time-delayed episodes of currently airing shows. Beyond that, though, lay a deep cut of classic television, B-movies, anime and Korean dramas. You can, for example, stream three different Dragon Ball series, with either dubs or subs, in their entirety without dropping a dime.

As for what might happen to Hulu now, it’s harder to say. Without having to subsidize free programs, the company may be able to put more focus on its original shows and prep for its forthcoming live TV service. On the other hand, charging $8 per month for a service with ads is somewhat cheeky when Netflix and Amazon offer streaming at similar prices, ad-free. Now that Hulu is competing with both services apples-to-apples, its insistence on double-dipping with both subscription fees and ad money may work against it.

For viewers, though, it’s hard to see Yahoo View as anything but a positive. For example, Hulu used to lock its content on mobile and streaming devices for paid users only. Yahoo View, which is already live, has promised mobile and streaming apps coming shortly, and they likely won’t require any fees. The world of streaming video giveth, and the world of streaming video taketh away.