The free ride might soon be over, or at least slowing down. According to a report in the New York Times, Hulu, the popular online streaming site, will begin testing a subscription service called Hulu Plus perhaps as early as May 24.
Users who aren't interested in forking over a monthly stipend would still be able to view the five most recent episodes of most TV shows for free, such as Saturday Night Live and Glee. Where the subscription comes into play is for viewers who want to watch a bigger selection.
Hulu, the second largest video portal on the planet, has turned a profit in the last two quarters and has pulled in more than $100 million in revenue from advertising. But according to the NYT, Hulu is under increasing pressure from its owners to rake in more cash and get viewers accustomed to paying a monthly subscription for professional content.
Do you think the $9.95 fee is reasonable? Would you subscribe to a service like this?
New research from NPD and Nielsens reveals some fairly interesting information on how Americans spend their free time, and the results might surprise you. On the gaming front, 63 percent of Americans reported having played some form of video game within the past six months, while only 43 per cent admitted to having gone to see a movie in the theatre. This bodes well for the gaming industry which reported that consumers now spend roughly one third of their entertainment budget on games, which equates to about $38 per person per month on average for content.
On the video front, Neilsen has released a separate study that shows online video might not be as big a threat as the major TV networks are letting on. Despite the rapid rise in online video viewing, consumers on average only watched about three hours per month via the Internet. That is up an hour from the results last year, but still only represents about 1.1 percent of total video consumption, which is totally dominated by traditional TV.
The other interesting statistic is that when it comes to video, apparently we are now watching more TV than ever before. The average American now consumes about 153.5 hours of TV per month, which works out to over 5 hours per day. This study excludes non-legitimate video sources such as peer to peer networks, but includes numbers pulled from Hulu, You Tube, and many other online video sites. Want to read the whole study? Click the link to read the whole report.
Although major ABC shows are reported to be at the heart of the discussions, the sources haven’t ruled out the possibility of the talks being expanded to include more content from Disney’s stable. Hulu is a joint venture between NBC Universal and News Corp with each having a 45% stake. A source has revealed that one of the arrangements being discussed is to allow Disney to be on equal footing with the two majority stakeholders.
Meanwhile, Disney and Youtube have struck a deal paving the way for ad-backed Youtube channels featuring videos from Disney and ESPN. These video channels will only be available in the U.S and won’t feature entire shows from the Disney stable. The ESPN channel and the ABC channel are scheduled to go live in April and May respectively. But, according to another paidcontent.org report, Disney’s deal with Youtube will not affect its talks with Hulu.
UK’s Competition Commission has disapproved Project Kangaroo, a proposed Hulu-esque VOD service, which was supposed to provide video content – mostly free videos - from three of its joint owners, the BBC, ITV and Channel 4. The fear of Kangaroo’s inevitable hegemony led the Commission to veto the alliance. The Commission felt that the video-on-demand service would have resulted in the “loss of competition” between its proprietors.
The three companies expressed their disconsolation in a joint statement. “We are disappointed by the decision to prohibit this joint venture. While this is an unwelcome finding for the shareholders, the real losers from this decision are British consumers. This is a disproportionate remedy and a missed opportunity in the further development of British broadcasting,” the statement reads. Although consumers would have most certainly devoured the service, the Commission's findings appear to be reasonable.
While there’s no doubt that Apple’s insanely popular iTunes store would hit this milestone, they felt it necessary to announce that they’ve finally hit 200 million sales of TV episodes, with more than one million of those being HD episodes sold just last month.
Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president of Internet Services, said in a statement this past Thursday, “We've got an incredible Fall 2008 TV lineup with over 70 primetime comedies and dramas, including many of the most popular shows on TV in stunning HD. With over 200 million episodes sold, iTunes customers have proven they love watching television on their computer, iPod, iPhone and TV with Apple TV.”
Thanks to the partnership of major television networks such as Bravo, Comedy Central, Disney Channel, ESPN, FX, HBO, MTV, Nickelodeon, Sci Fi, Showtime and USA, these sales don’t look they’re going to slow down anytime in the near future.
For those keeping track, the iTunes store now offers over eight million songs, over 30,000 TV episodes and over 2,500 films. Almost makes a man never want to leave his house.
This time last year, most of us would have predicted that Blu-ray and HD-DVD would still be going at it, but even with a victor now declared in the high definition format war, digital downloads and streaming content are ruling the roost, just as Michael Bay prophesized (minus the corporate conspiracy theory). Hoping to become king of the digital hill, Amazon.com is introducing a new online store of TV shows and movies.
What's that you say, Unbox isn't new? That's right, but this isn't Unbox. Amazon Video on Demand departs from the company's first attempt at offering a digital video download service, and this time around, customers will not be required to download special software to the watch programs they buy. And in another departure from Unbox, the new service will extend support beyond just Windows PCs and TiVo set-top boxes.
Find out what else Amazon Video on Demand brings to the table and when it will be available after the jump.