A contrarian view of Hulu

Now that Hulu is attracting some 42 million views a month, qualifying as a runaway success, creators NBC and FOX are wondering if the online television site is too successful.

The L.A. Times reported yesterday morning that the streaming-video site is causing a rift between its makers and the cable and satellite companies, like Time Warner Cable and DirecTV, who’d like exclusivity in return for the millions they’re paying TV networks to broadcast their shows.

It’s why cable shows on USA and FX have surprisingly been dropped by Hulu.  Even with ABC set to join the fold, cable subscriptions haven’t been disappearing, but this quote was fairly pertinent. 

“The appetite for full-length TV shows online was larger than anyone thought or expected,” said Bobby Tulsiani, Forrester Research media analyst. “And now people are starting to wonder, do we even need the cable connections?”

No Bobby, no we don’t.  Unless of course, you want to watch sports or live television events.  The problem is that cable companies aren’t just going to roll over and let their customer base dry up.  Perhaps the scariest aspect of the article on Hulu’s future is the notion of authentication. 

The partners also are discussing setting up a tiered system for online video, with some shows available for free — such as prime-time network offerings — while others would be reserved for existing cable TV subscribers.

“Everyone is coalescing around a central area — authentication,” said Tony Vinciquerra, chief of Fox’s television networks. “If we can move this in the right direction, it will be something relatively seamless to the consumer, and good for business overall.”

But that concept is not good or seamless for the consumer.  As soon as you go down that rabbit hole, then the usefullness of Hulu becomes extinct. 

Make no mistake, Hulu isn’t free.  The central conceit that Hulu is free is a specious argument.  Every show has five 30-second commercial breaks.  Just like television you watch on cable. 

People should cancel their cable subscriptions en mass to prove how useless that service is.

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