Hulu announced today that it’s launching its Hulu Plus paid service with an upcoming preview mode, offering a much deeper content library and access to that content across a wide variety of platforms.
Content will include both current broadcast shows as well as content libraries of past shows with entire season runs. This includes full current seasons of shows such as “The Office,” “Modern Family,” and “30 Rock,” and full season runs of past shows such as “The X-Files,” “Arrested Development,” “Quantum Leap,” and “Miami Vice.” According to Hulu, subscribers will be able to stream about 2,000 episodes from about 120 seasons of shows. A full list of content providers and shows available can be found on the Hulu Plus Content page.
Priced at $9.99 per month, subscribers will have access to this content across PCs and Macs, select Samsung branded CE equipment including Web-enabled TVs, Blu-ray players and Blu-ray home theater in a box (HTiB) systems, as well as Apple’s iPad, iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4, and third-generation iPod Touch. They’ve also said that PS3 access will be available soon with Xbox 360 access rolled out early next year. All native HD shows will be available at up to 720p resolution. In addition to Samsung, Sony and Vizio will be supporting the new service, both putting out their press releases just minutes ago. Vizio will add Hulu Plus to its VIZIO INTERNET APPS (VIA) platform, which includes its VIA-enabled HDTVs and Blu-ray players.
I was an early beta tester of Hulu when it first rolled out, and true to form, they are rolling out invites and promo codes to the initial preview to manage interest this time around as well. Hulu Plus will be available to U.S. subscribers first via an invitation only preview which should enable the site to focus on quality and service scaling, which will be critical given its multiple device, multiple bandwidth scenario usage models. To request an invite, visit http://www.hulu.com/plus.
Hulu CEO Jason Kilar was interviewed by paidContent right after the announcement, which you can check out on their site. It’s no surprise that Hulu will continue with its ad-supported free site as well (which gets roughly 40 million viewers per month), but it’s wings may surely be clipped, despite Kilar saying that Hulu Plus will be “incremental and complementary.” Hulu Plus TV will be an “ad-supported subscription product” too so you won’t be able to skip through the ads there either. But Hulu as a company for the first time will be able to extend its targeted ad platform across four screens- PCs, TV, mobile phones, and tablets and is partnering with Nissan and Bud Light for the first set of ad placements. For advertisers, this is a gem, to be able to run a cohesive series of ads across multiple platforms that have some consistency compared to the way that ad campaigns are fractured today across multiple platforms. We’ll have to see how this is executed.
Kilar goes into more details about the new service in his blog post that just hit a short while ago.
Hulu Plus’ preview is not launching with CBS or other new networks or broadcast channels, instead it’s a shifting of existing partners’ content (about 100) which will make up the new service including NBC Universal, Disney, and News Corp who all jointly own Hulu. But Hulu needs to court CBS to the dance.
So, do I think people will pick up Hulu Plus at $10 per month for content access across a wide spectrum of device platforms they may already have in their homes? Will they drop cable, satellite, FiOS, or U-verse for it? As a substitute for cable, satellite, FiOS, or U-Verse it lacks sports and news programming. But by cutting the cord you could go over-the-air with a $40 HD antenna to pick up your local news and sports channels in your metro area. What you will miss is ESPN’s network as well as other sports networks. And then there is the issue of what if your household really wants 3D? How will Hulu Plus handle that in the future?
You could drop your TV package and essentially “unbundle” yourself from your service provider and watch your Internet access bill go up by $10-$15 as you’d still need the broadband connection (your bundling discount would go away as would the cost of the TV service and the rental of all the equipment you have). As far as doing DVR, you’d be watching the content on your time, on your device of choice, and in the location of choice. It’s the ultimate DVR! It just wouldn’t be live content. You’d have to jump back to your TV with an OTA HD antenna for that. For many households, this could be a way to drop the ever creeping “cable” bill entirely. Good for cost cutters in these recessionary times.
Will there be discounts? Not according to Hulu from Hulu, but what about from the likes of Sony, Samsung, Vizio, and Microsoft? Expect some innovative marketing programs to be bundled with consumer electronics brands to help drive adoption of Hulu Plus. It would be a natural fit for the game console brands to bundle Hulu Plus for free for a limited period of time, to stimulate additional console sales for example.
Will we see a Hulu app for today’s free Hulu content on iPad or the iPhone? The answer is no. Because Hulu worked out licensing agreements with both the content providers and the device platform brands that state that Hulu Plus content will be available multi-device, but content in the free version of Hulu will not be.
I will have to wait to see the variety, quality, and ease of use when the Hulu Plus preview shows up on the screens in my household to see if it’s worth the extra investment— I have Comcast cable and Internet and Verizon’s cellular and landline service— or the cutting of the cord entirely!
It’s also time for Netflix to adjust their strategy!
– Randy Giusto