One Way Or Another, We'll All Soon Pay For Hulu

One Way Or Another, We'll All Soon Pay For Hulu Despite Netflix CEO Reed Hastings all but gift-wrapping a summer 2011 opportunity to leap forward into the streaming-video lead, Hulu probably would've never exclipsed the Great Red Goliath anytime soon. But this?

This decision may guarantee it will never happen.

A unique position to provide streaming network/cable television content and movies legitimately and largely gratis notwithstanding, rumors now abound that Hulu has soon figured out a way we will all pay to play in their sandbox, FOX Business reports. The site's administrators have taken the first steps in requiring that users verify a valid pay-TV account to enjoy Hulu's library. The new model has been dubbed "authentication," since the new protocol will require providing a valid cable or satellite TV account number.

Since Hulu decided to follow up its 31 million unique March free-for-all visitors with this cash-grab, Providence Equity Partners made a move last week to cash out of the company after five years.

Nor is Hulu really alone. FOX has a "TV Everywhere" authentication plan in the works with Philadelphia-based Comcast, which is considering its own Summer Olympics authentication scheme.

All of this, despite $420 million racked up last year in ad revenue.

There goes arguably the single best way around a cable TV subscription.

What a stupid, stupid move. Hulu has had a leg up on Netflix, in that while Netflix has a vast back library of shows and movies, Hulu keeps up a more current cache via its streaming agreements - such as, say, all previous "Community" seasons available via the paid Hulu Plus plan - that the current Netflix model just doesn't support. Netflix could make up ground with its growing development of original content - such as the 10-episode new season of "Arrested Development" - but there can't capture other shows' built-in fanbases looking for a means to catch up on missed episodes.

Dare I say, it comes across almost traitorous. The brand has made its living so far being the end-run around dire economic straits making broadcast television in the all-digital-broadcast era a financially crippling luxury. An authentication model amounts to betrayal of everybody who considered the site a saving grace.

Unless iTunes and Amazon have some double-barreled shotgun of an ace up their respective sleeves, Netflix can establish itself again as the undisputed, unchallenged king of the streaming long as Hastings doesn't once more decide to make things "better."

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