Is Hulu About to Make Its Streaming Service Irrelevant?
There’s little doubt that every streaming platform serves its own unique function. Netflix is the default destination for binge-watching. HBOGo is primarily used by Game of Thrones fans every Spring. Amazon’s offering comes paired with an Amazon Prime subscription. For Hulu, the service it provides is primarily in next-day streaming. While it’s slowly started gathering original programming and exclusive deals with various networks, you buy a Hulu subscription so that you don’t have to fork over even more money for cable. Soon though, we may see that come to an unceremonious end.
The Wall Street Journal recently published an unsettling report about Hulu’s potential future, highlighting a grim fate for its next-day streaming offering. Anyone familiar with Hulu recognizes this for what it is: a neutering of the primary reason anyone subscribes to the service in the first place. Currently, the platform offers next-day episodes of shows across virtually every major network, including FOX, ABC, NBC, CBS, and the CW among others. It’s a solid and dependable substitute for more expensive options, and the honeymoon might just be over now that cable providers have gotten wise.
WSJ mentions a possible deal between Hulu and Time Warner, where the latter would purchase a 25% stake in the former. One of the main goals from Time Warner’s side includes the axing of next-day services, marking a clear win for cable companies that already are maligned by their customer base on a regular basis. In an ultimate “no duh” bit of reasoning, the company cites how Hulu “is harmful to its owners because it contributes to people dropping their pay-TV subscriptions.” All this presents a massive problem for Hulu, and only further cements the status of cable providers as the least customer-friendly businesses in America.
The bigger issue here is that if Warner gets what it wants, Hulu will effectively be a dead streaming service. It doesn’t have a massive deal with Marvel akin to Netflix’s, it doesn’t have an insanely popular show like Game of Thrones a la HBO, and it doesn’t offer any additional benefits like Amazon does. If it isn’t offering itself up as a cheap alternative to a cable package, what is it giving customers? Of course Time Warner doesn’t care about the answer to this question as much as it wants to eliminate the competition in lieu of bettering its own product.
Here we have yet another example of the established television industry refusing to adapt to the modern landscape. If Hulu nixes its considerable library of next-day shows, you can bet more people will turn to pirating their TV rather than forking over the cash for cable. People subscribe to Hulu so they won’t have to pay more for cable, and if you take that away, that’s not going to do anything to convince them they need to spend more money. With services like The Pirate Bay and Popcorn Time still going strong, Hulu is really the least of Time Warner’s problems right now.
All this speculative at this point, as no deal has officially been put into place. But if it goes through, we could very well see Hulu fade into the sunset, overshadowed by better, more effective services that actually understand their own inherent strengths and weaknesses. For now, all is right in the world of next-day streaming. If Time Warner has its way though, we could see some massive shifts in the world of streaming and the downfall of one of the industry’s biggest players.
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