Are changes afoot for Hulu?

Posted by Shane McGlaun

When Hulu first launched, I was quite excited about being able to watch some past episodes of shows I liked on my TV by streaming them from the web.

However, it quickly became obvious when Hulu started blocking most streaming set-top boxes that the owners of the streaming service really only wanted you to watch on your computer - thus severely limited the usefulness of Hulu for many viewers.

There are indications that some serious changes may be afoot for Hulu. A memo has surfaced online that is supposedly a confidential document that was leaked. Hulu is owned by a conglomerate of firms, including Comcast, News Corp., Disney, and Providence Equity Partners. Providence is in the process of being purchased, and that purchase will give the individual networks of NBC, Fox, and ABC more power over how programs are offered on the streaming service.

According to Variety, which obtained the confidential memo, the significant changes include no more exclusivity for content from current seasons. That means the content would be available for streaming from competing websites such as YouTube. To me, that's not bad news in the least, and I hope some of this previously exclusive content might make it to Netflix.

What I do think is bad news is that network websites will be able to hold back some of their content to set themselves apart from the streaming offerings on Hulu. That means ABC.com could restrict streaming episodes of its most popular shows for viewing only on its website. The bad part about that would mean that Hulu Plus subscribers might not be able to view certain content on their TV.

Other tidbits in the leaked memo include so-called "super-distribution" rights Hulu once retained allowing it to syndicate content to third-party sites such as Yahoo and AOL would revert to their respective owners. Those owners are Disney and News Corp. Fox also wants to increase the number of commercials during episodes on Hulu.com to four. That's bad news for anyone who loathes commercial delays in online programming. Exactly how bad this is remains to be seen. Frankly, I'm looking at this as a potentially good thing for people who prefer Netflix.