TiVo, Roku Hook Up Hulu Plus
Over-the-top box makers TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO) and Roku Inc. are expanding further into the domain of premium television after striking deals to offer the $9.99 "Plus" Hulu LLC service that came to light in June. (See Hulu Opens Toll Road and TiVo, Roku Get Hulu Plus.)
When exactly Hulu Plus will show up on those devices is still a guessing game. Roku said it will offer it "later this fall," while TiVo says it will do the same "in the coming months." However, Hulu Plus will only be offered on the TiVo Premiere box and require a separate subscription to the TiVo service. Roku said the premium Hulu will run on its complete line of streaming players.
The latest duo to sign on expands a device group of Hulu Plus haves that include the Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch; the Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) Playstation 3; Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) Xbox 360; and a set of digital TVs and Blu-ray players from Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC) and Vizio Inc.
Still on the sidelines is Boxee , which is getting ready to release its OTT box later this year and has already been subject to blocking by Hulu. Apple is getting access to Hulu on several of its key products, but the one that's still conspicuously absent from the list is the new Apple TV. However, that streaming-only product will have access to Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX), viewed by some as one of Hulu Plus's primary competitors, when it starts shipping. (See Netflix CEO: Hulu Plus Still 'Too Small to Matter' and Will Smaller Apple TV Spell Big Trouble for VoD?)
The latest batch of Hulu Plus supporters is also likely to spark another round of debate on "cord cutting," a budding trend in which consumers get rid of their cable TV subscriptions and rely on broadband and over-the-air TV broadcasts to fulfill their video needs.
For those still keeping score, Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Inc. analyst Craig Moffett was the latest to poke a hole in that concept, issuing a report holding that "real-world evidence of cord-cutting remains scant" and that it's the economy that's threatening "to make Pay TV unaffordable."
Hulu Plus, by the way, is starting off with 2,000 episodes and 120 seasons of programming, including new episodes of such series as Modern Family, Glee, The Office, and 30 Rock.
Interestingly, Hulu continues to play nice with OTT, as one of its owners, NBC Universal , inches closer to sealing a deal that will see Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) take control of the programmer, perhaps before the end of the year. Critics of the deal have argued that Comcast might withhold NBCU content from WebTV providers and instead hoard it for its own cable TV service and budding TV Everywhere initiative. (See Web TV Takes a Crack at Comcast-NBCU Union .)
Still, applying a subscription to "Plus" should keep Hulu's other owners -- News Corp. (NYSE: NWS) and Walt Disney Co. -- relatively free of cable operator ire. MSOs pay them and other programmers affiliate fees, and may balk at those fees if programmers give away too much for free via the Web.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable