Two months ago, when the Hulu Plus rumor came out in the industry, we did a comparison between between Netflix and Hulu Plus here
. Now that Hulu Plus is officially introduced, let’s take a further look at the new service.
According to Hulu, Hulu Plus is not a replacement for Hulu.com. Hulu Plus is a new, revolutionary ad-supported subscription product that is incremental and complementary to the existing Hulu service. For almost all of the current broadcast shows on our service, Hulu Plus offers the full season. Every single episode of the current season will be available, not just a handful of trailing episodes. Moreover, Hulu Plus subscribers can now watch their favorites through more than just the browser on their Mac or PC. Hulu Plus subscribers will be able to watch all the Hulu shows on Internet connected TVs, iPhones, iPads and game consoles.
In short, Hulu Plus offers a deep catalogue of TV shows and a wide range of content distribution channels. It is the TV Everywhere by broadcasters.
So will consumers be willing to pay for the service? Without statistical evidence yet, a qualitative comparison among online premium video offerings could shed some light on the future of Hulu Plus. Netflix is a similar service which we’ve already compared with Hulu Plus in the previous post. As Hulu Plus has made it universally accessible, Netflix on iPhone is also coming soon. Both services are going the video everywhere approach. From the content distribution portfolio perspective, Hulu Plus is on par with Netflix streaming service. With $1 price advantage, Netflix could gain a slight edge over Hulu Plus, although a minor one. The key difference between the two services come down to content selection. While Netflix is a back-catalogue movie service, Hulu Plus is a back-catalogue TV show service, as all consumers can watch recent TV shows on regular Hulu service. So the competition could be somewhat simplified to TV shows VS movies. Netflix again has an edge over Hulu, with some of the TV shows such as Lost, 24 and Prison Break, also being included in its catalogue. Going forward, Hulu Plus could grow its catalogue significantly, but Netflix’s big user base makes it hard for broadcasters to ignore and not to sign deals with.
Cable companies’ TV Everywhere is definitely a competing service to Hulu Plus. With similar content distribution portfolio in which users can access content on TVs, PCs and mobile phones, TV Everywhere could have better content selection than Hulu Plus. And for current cable subscribers, there is no incremental expense to enjoy TV Everywhere programs. But the speed of rolling out TV Everywhere service is questionable so far.
Hulu Plus is clearly an experiment by the broadcasters in the hope of generating revenues by distributing content on their own. If Hulu Plus could prove its viability on profitability, there will be more content providers joining the game. And cable companies would inevitably lose their leverage in the negotiation. It is foreseeable that Hulu Plus could potentially become a formidable over-the-top TV service provider that rivals Comcast and Time Warner Cable, once all the major content providers join Hulu Plus. This could lead to the failure of cable companies’ TV Everywhere and eventually the distinction of cable companies. But right now it is still too early to tell.