If a rumor from the Wall Street Journal is to be believed, and they have often been correct, Hulu will be creating their own Internet TV service in 2017. This will allow subscribers to watch channels live from broadcasters.
This is akin to Playstation Vue, a service Sony has been marketing for the past couple years. For a price much cheaper than cable, you can watch channels on your laptop just like you would on cable. It’s not available on Android TV and other smart TVs through an app, but the idea is there.
With the FCC planning to open cable boxes, it’s clear that the future of cable is not renting cable boxes and paying premiums for live content. Cordcutters are increasing, and want a better payment model.
It should be noted that Hulu is partially owned by Comcast, which has a vested interest in the status quo. In the report, ABC, ESPN, and Disney are listed as partner channels, and there aren’t any from NBCUniversal or Comcast. Right away Hulu will be at a disadvantage compared to it’s competitors. Comcast and NBC control a lot of desired channels and are critical for the success of a cable provider. NBC is included in Playstation Vue though.
Another downside to Hulu’s rumored service is the price. $40/month is more than the $30/month for Playstation Vue and double the cost of Sling TV’s base package. With fewer channels and a more expensive subscription, it’s not going to capture a lot of the market.
How is the experience going to be? Hulu already has apps for mobile and smart TVs, and it wouldn’t be a lot of additional work to create a separate section to select live channels. However, Hulu is not likely going to do much work to support specific Android TV features like Live Channels. This omission is means that people will have to go through extra work in order to channel surf instead of it being exposed in the UI. Poor discovery means fewer users.
The experience on a phone isn’t going to be great either. People typically don’t watch long videos on a phone, and that applies more so for live content. On-demand content is going to be more useful on commutes, as people may not always have Internet connections, and people will often be too busy to catch the exact content that they want and will rewatch it later.
For better or worse Hulu will need to focus really hard on the TV in order to succeed. Dish has their own cable box that users can use, and the Playstation Vue works with the Playstation. Hulu currently doesn’t have any partnerships with smart TV manufacturers. Comcast doesn’t seem to be to be very supportive of the idea, so it won’t be integrated into Comcast’s X1 platform. (Comcast has their own over-the-top service called Stream).
Will Hulu work with Google? Having this service integrated into Android TVs would be a major sell for both companies, and may one of the only ways to gain a large following. Hulu may also work with Apple on providing this OTT service with Apple’s Live Channels competitor.
To conclude, Hulu’s plan to create their own OTT service has a lot of questions currently unanswered. How will they get followers? What channels will be available at launch? What platforms will it support? Hopefully Hulu has answered these and is waiting for the right time to launch. If they can’t, they’ll be easily out-competed by other companies and services.