We’ve been talking on our podcast about the prospect of paying for the free online video streaming service, Hulu, since the earliest day’s of our show. And now, it seems Hulu is presenting us with a birthday present of a sort, Hulu Plus.
In a press release on their blog earlier today, Jason Kilar, CEO of Hulu, described their latest attempt at monetizing their streaming services. Hulu Plus will be a $9.99 per month subscription service, where users can essentially have access to a larger back catalog of episodes, whereas free users will only have access to a limited number of recent episodes.
In addition to the increased amount of online media that their paid users will be able to stream, Hulu is venturing into the “sit back” market. They will eventually allow Samsung TVs and Blu-ray players access to the titles, thus finally providing consumers an inexpensive alternative to the cable companies. Hulu Plus will also be providing iPhone 4 and iPad users applications with which they can stream content on the go. Towards the end of the press release, Kilar references the fact that the Playstation 3 will eventually have access to the Hulu Plus as well, but that will be rolled out at a later date. Rumors that the Xbox would also be getting a Hulu interface were not realized, but I’m sure they will persist.
If you are currently accessing Hulu for free, don’t worry, it will not be taken away from you. As we spoke about months ago, to suddenly put up a pay wall for a service that promised itself as free in it’s inception, only to cut off access would be a huge mistake in this tenuous world of providing content online.
This move is clearly a shot across the bow at Netflix. Right now you can watch movies on Netflix Watch Instantly on your computers, Blu-ray players, Roku Players, and some televisions. Netflix also recently announced at WWDC that they are working on an iPhone version, to work in concert with their already available, and much praised, iPad application. Although, with At&t’s recent move to cut unlimited data plans for new customers, you better be watching those television shows at a wi-fi hotspot.
I can assure you that I will not be canceling my Netflix subscription anytime soon, as the ability to watch movies instantly, as well as get physical discs in the mail, is my ideal service. I want access to Netflix’s catalog of Criterion titles, as well as their pretty successful recommendation engine, which may not always be on the money, but has suggested several movies that I never would have added to my queue.
This move on Hulu’s part should most likely worry the Cable and Internet companies, who will now be competing with themselves for viewers dollars. It will also be interesting to see how Comcast reacts to this move, as they have vested interests in almost all sides on this matter, with their recent move to acquire NBC Universal.
For Criterion fans, hopefully this will mean that with added revenue, Hulu may be able to license more titles that Criterion has access to, increasing their channel to more than just a selection of Zatoichi movies. If Criterion opened up their catalog to Hulu, and allowed me to pay a premium for that sort of content, I would easily pay a reasonable monthly fee. I’ve already proposed the idea of a Criterion Collection subscription here.
I should say again that this was just announced today, and they are in the early beta stages of getting users on board. You can request access to it, but it may take some time for them to get the kinks worked out.
What about you? Are you signing up for a Hulu Plus subscription?