Well, there you go. According to the New York Post, it looks like Hulu is going to be switching over to a new revenue system. The site, owned by News Corp., Disney, Comcast and Providence, has used an ad and subscription supported model that enabled people to watch cable and network shows without subscribing to cable. The problem is, people are leaving cable. So, Hulu is going change to an “authentication model” that will require you to enter your cable subscriber number before you watch. No cable, no Hulu.
When Comcast bought NBC, they insisted that it wouldn’t be bad to allow a distribution company to also own content creation. When some people complained that this might lead to doing things that were bad for competition, they demurred. In response, they argued that they would never do anything to harm their customers.
At the time, I did a couple of radio interviews that never aired. I was critical of Comcast, but it’s a Comcast town, so I wasn’t surprised about that. My concern was not that Comcast would harm its own customers. They’d never do that. But what about all those people who used other cable companies? Comcast would certainly make life hard for them.
And here we are. Rather than see the shifts that are happening in platform and device use, the companies that back Hulu have decided that viewership will depend upon something as backward as cable subscription. So many new approaches out there, and they choose to follow the lead of the RIAA and MPAA: deny that the world has changed. That’s worked out well, hasn’t it.
Somehow, I don’t think that this is going to stop people from cutting the cord. There are many alternate legal means for obtaining content, it’s not as if you need cable. It is unfortunate that the companies that we, as a society, have allowed to use the free broadcast spectrum are turning around and charging for that content. While it may not be breaking the letter of the law, it certainly breaks the spirit of it.
And my guess is that doing this will put the studios right up there with the record companies with regard to people’s ire and self-righteous piracy.