By Harry McCracken | Tuesday, June 29, 2010 at 11:23 am
Speaking of browser-based entertainment services that are branching out: Hulu has finally announced its plans for a for-pay version of its extremely popular TV service. Hulu Plus will cost $9.99 a month and provide full access to entire seasons (current and past) of shows from ABC, NBC, FOX, and other TV networks. And it’ll be the first version of the service that’s available on devices that aren’t PCs, including the iPhone 4, iPhone 3G, iPod Touch, iPad, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and TVs and Blu-Ray players from Samsung, Sony, and Vizio. (That helps explain why Hulu has done everything in its power to prevent other companies such as Boxee from letting their users watch Hulu shows.)
Hulu says that the freebie, ad-supported version of the service isn’t going away–it’ll just offer fewer episodes, and won’t be available on a cornucopia of gadgets.
Hulu Plus will debut as a private beta–you can request an invite here. No news yet on when it’ll be available to all comers.
There are two ways to look at a $10/month Internet TV service. If you’re mentally comparing it to free alternatives–be they legal or not-so-legal–paying ten bucks may sound steep. But that same pricetag would be a steal if subscribing to Hulu Plus would let you kiss cable TV goodbye.
I’m inclined to respond in the latter, more optimistic way: If Hulu Plus lives up to its potential, it’ll be the first true Internet-era threat to the big cable and satellite companies. Its mere existence will be good news for consumers, since it’ll put pressure on Comcast and company to provide better services at lower prices.
Will I dump cable the instant Hulu Plus goes live? Maybe not: I’m a news junkie, and news is still something that cable does well, especially for major events. What I really want is some sort of economical plan that gives me multiple all-news channels but lets me skip the Cake Channel and its ilk. But at some point I may decide that over-the-air TV–along with news sites, blogs, podcasts, magazines, and newspapers–can keep me sufficiently well informed.