Back in early 2008, Hulu launched in beta to a horde of naysayers and early adopters with high-hopes. Over a year and a half later Hulu is the 3rd most popular online video site, and despite YouTube’s #1 position in the online video space and its relatively massive distribution in comparison with Hulu, Hulu has seen more success at online video monetization, and continues to expand.
With more people ditching their cable service in the name of savings and/or convenience and opting to watch their favorite shows online, networks are adding premium content to their websites and sharing much of that content with Hulu. Despite this seemingly symbiotic relationship, networks are not prepared to bring all their content online, while cable providers have to deal with complicated restrictions regarding what they can air for free. Add to the pot the increasingly popularity of DVRs making it possible for cable TV subscribers to ignore ads altogether and cut into networks’ profits, and the fate of cable TV is nebulous.
The latest shake up comes with the introduction of Hulu’s new desktop application, one that allows users to transform their computers into a simulated TV and browse Hulu’s web content with a compatible remote control, like the one from Windows Media Player, for example.
Will the ease-of-use factor encourage more cable subscribers to cancel their service? Maybe, in the future. Some people may not be willing to give up access to their favorite cable stations and many haven’t figured out how to get free HD TV. But if more people realize they can ditch their cable bill in favor of free HD access to non-cable programming and varied access to cable and non-cable shows via sites like Hulu and the forthcoming Epix , cable networks may find themselves struggling to compete in a market that is slowly pushing its product into obscurity.
Clearly it is time to innovate. But I don’t anticipate the cable networks going down without a fight.
What do you think of the move towards online media consumption? Is there any reason you would keep your cable box? Is this just another example of big media blatantly ignoring the signs of the times, or does the ad-supported TV model make adapting more difficult than it looks? Post your thoughts below!