June 10, 2010, 7:58 AM — It's the rumor that just won't die. Once again, the possibility of Hulu adding paid subscriptions to its service is in the news, and this time it's Reuters doing the reporting, citing two un-named sources.
Reuters doesn't offer any info on pricing, but a time frame of "the next month or two" is mentioned. In the past we've heard a price of somewhere around $10/month. Reuters re-iterates that current episodes will remain free (via ad-support) and that a subscription will get you access to older episodes of a show, as well as "other content."
The same story mentions Hulu on the Xbox 360, another rumor we've heard before (just last week, in fact). This time the iPad is being thrown into the mix as well. There are still lots of questions surrounding these devices. On the iPad Hulu would presumably be an app like Netflix is (given that Hulu on the web runs on Flash). On the Xbox, there's the question of whether Hulu would be baked into the operating system or available via a disk. Using Netflix as an example again, Microsoft opted to make it an integral part of the Xbox 360 "Dashboard" and it seems reasonable they'd want to do the same with Hulu.
And then there's the Sony PS3, which Reuters doesn't mention. The Sony PS3 has a web browser that runs Flash, but Hulu is deliberately blocked from that device (if you run your PS3 connection through a proxy that spoofs a different user-agent, Hulu works, or so I'm told). Presumably Hulu is blocked from the PS3 because they currently only have the rights to deliver their content to a computer, not to a TV. If Hulu comes to the Xbox 360 it'll mean those rights have been renegotiated. At that point Hulu will have no legal reason to block the PS3 (or Boxee or Apple TV for that matter). Before PS3 owners get too excited, there's still the likelihood that Microsoft will negotiate an exclusive contract with Hulu to prevent the service from working on the PS3 or Nintendo Wii.
Will having Hulu on the living room TV threaten traditional cable networks? It's an interesting question, and one that really extends beyond just Hulu. The Wall Street Journal ran a piece titled Web Series Tap Prime Time yesterday which looks at not just Hulu, but independent sources of video such as blip.tv and Revision3. The short answer is that more and more people are turning to these IP-based sources during prime time (a 14% increase from March 2009 to March 2010). As more and more devices hit the market to facilitate getting internet-based content on the big screen (TiVo, Roku and various internet-ready TVs and blu-ray players today, set-top boxes like Google TV or the Boxee Box in the near future) those numbers should continue to rise. What impact this will have on traditional cable is still anyone's guess, but I think most of us can agree the cable TV business can use a bit of shaking up.