I’m not sure how typical they are of their generation, but my 26-year-old daughter and her husband recently canceled their cable TV service because they found themselves watching most of their TV programs over the Internet, typically via Hulu.com.
For the past three years, Hulu has been streaming thousands of free programs to PCs and Macs. Like broadcast TV, Hulu has commercials, but they are shorter than their TV counterparts. The company, owned in part by NBC Universal, News Corp., and the Walt Disney Co., is now launching a new paid subscription service.
Hulu Plus, which will cost $9.99 a month and be gradually rolled out, will feature all episodes from the current season of a show as well as full archives of entire back seasons. You can request a “preview invite” at Hulu.com.
Not all shows will be available, but the library will include “The Office,” “Family Guy,” “30 Rock,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Desperate Housewives” and “Saturday Night Live.”
The new service will not replace the current free offering. The free Hulu will still offer selected current and some previous seasons.
In addition, Hulu is going beyond computer access by allowing paid subscribers to view programs on an iPad, iPhone, some Internet-enabled Samsung video players and the Sony PlayStation 3. A live Internet connection will be needed to view them.
One thing that is sure to frustrate some potential subscribers is that paying customers will have to watch commercials. The company plans to have the same number of commercials for both paid and free offerings.
This “hybrid model” of paid plus advertising is a big gamble for Hulu. It’s not clear to me whether people are going to deal with advertising with paid content.
To be fair, the publishing industry has long used that model; readers have long accepted advertising in magazines and newspapers even if they paid for subscription or newsstand copies.
Of course, there are other ways to watch TV shows and movies online. Apple’s iTunes, for example, allows you to purchase individual episodes or full seasons without commercials, and iTunes allows you to download the programs.
Also, some of the TV networks stream their own programs. ABC.com, for example, lets you watch recent episodes of many of their popular shows. CBS.com has full episodes of “Big Brother,” “Late Show with David Letterman” and other programs.
While I don’t mind using my laptop to watch TV shows in hotels or on airplanes, I prefer sitting on my home sofa in front of the big-screen TV.