Is streaming video over the Internet a viable option over standard cable or satellite services? Hulu is betting that it is. Their free, ad-supported service has given access to new and archived episodes of current and past hit TV shows, as well as a smattering of feature length movies. After months of rumors, news broke yesterday of Hulu Plus, a $9.95 per month subscription service that provides complete episodes for full seasons of major shows from NBC, ABC, and Fox, among others. According to the announcement on the company blog, the service will still be “ad supported”, and will offer more content than the existing free Hulu service (which will also continue). The service will also offer content in 720p high definition.
The other part of the news is that Hulu Plus will also be available on more platforms. The blog entry mentions support for the iPad and iPhone, and Samsung has announced that it will add a downloadable app for Hulu Plus immediately for “select 2010 Blu-ray players, Blu-ray home theater systems, and the majority of 2010 Samsung TVs 40” and above.” Samsung cites that it is the “exclusive HDTV partner” for the Hulu Plus preview period. At the same time, Vizio has announced that it will also be supporting Hulu Plus on its Vizio Internet Apps (VIA) platform for its Blu-ray players and HDTVs.
Hulu Plus is starting with an invitation-only preview period, after which it will be opened up to all subscribers. You can request an invitation at the Hulu Plus site at http://www.hulu.com/plus.
This is huge news. True, you don’t get any CBS content, and the coverage of the other networks is not comprehensive. But all the same, it allows you to watch your favorite shows in HD on your HDTV, Blu-ray player, phone, pad, notebook computer, or desktop computer for a single monthly fee. This rate is way below the average cable company subscription, and puts the camel’s nose even further under the tent for a la carte pricing of cable programming. If the cable and satellite companies won’t or can’t respond, this will just hasten the demise of standard subscription-based television services.