September 28, 2010, 7:44 AM — [Update: This rumor has now been confirmed by Roku. Hulu Plus will be coming to all Roku Players later this fall.]
Apple TV and Google TV continue to fight for our attention, while the Boxee Box jumps up and down in the background showing off its sunken cube design. Meanwhile, Roku quietly continues to improve itself. When it launched Roku was basically a Netflix Streaming device but over the years it has added Amazon Video-on-Demand as well as all the titles in the Roku Channel store. 1080P streaming was added in the latest generation of Roku players and local content streaming is coming in November.
There are two major content sources that are missing. iTunes is one, and we won't hold our breath there. The other is Hulu, and there's good news on that front. This is all rumor, mind you, but a blog called BusinessofVideo.com claims that it has images of a Hulu channel running on the Roku interface. Neither Roku nor Hulu would offer comment but Dan Rayburn, the author of the post, claims that some of Hulu's content partners have confirmed the deal.
VentureBeat's Devindra Hardawar picked up the story and also contacted Roku for confirmation. Interestingly rather than a simple "no comment" Roku had this to say: "We have no comment at this time. It’s reasonable to expect we’ll have something to say in the near future and I will definitely follow-up with you as soon as we do." That seems promising, doesn't it?
What we still don't know is if we're talking about Hulu (free) or Hulu Plus ($10/month). Traditionally Hulu has actively worked against people getting Hulu onto TV screens so we're almost certainly talking about Hulu Plus. From my observations is seems like Hulu buys one set of streaming rights for PCs and another for devices designed to connect to a TV (or in some cases, it purchases both). That's the only explanation for the fact that Hulu contains some content that Hulu Plus doesn't, and vice versa. One would expect that the paid service would offer everything the free service offers, plus more, but that isn't the case. Anyway the point is, Hulu would have to renegotiate all its contracts if it were going to put the Hulu service on a device like the Roku, while the Hulu Plus service has all the rights in place.
Hulu Plus is still in "Preview" mode and requires an invitation before you can sign up. Assuming it is coming to Roku, let's hope that means the service is getting ready to roll out into full on public mode, and let's further hope that means Hulu will be able to expand the offerings it has available in the Hulu Plus service. Right now the offerings are a bit slim considering you have to spend $10 and still sit through advertisements.