Sport & Auto
- About Future
- Digital Future
- Cookies Policy
- Terms & Conditions
- Investor Relations
- Contact Future
The debate over whether to have Flash on the iPhone OS has been inextricably linked to Hulu's decision not to transcode their videos into H.264, like YouTube and other competitors. After all, Flash gaming on a touchscreen interface has barriers beyond support for the plugin, and most people aren't huge fans of flash ads. However, since it launched in 2008, Hulu, has become synonymous with internet TV, and has chosen to steer clear from the iPhone, instead choosing to remain a standalone Flash website.
According to Peter Kafka of AllThingsDigital, this may change, as Hulu is reportedly considering developing an iPad app. The catch? You would have to pay for it. Kafka argues that this is for two reasons. First, the platform shift would allow Hulu to justify branding an iPad version as "premium," and thus shift to a more profitable business model, like that of a subscription service. Second, Kafka speculates that Hulu would be mandated to call the iPad a "mobile device" by its content providers, and as a result, would have to renegotiate (read: pay more) to get the mobile rights for the shows they broadcast, as they don't have them currently.
Of course, this puts Hulu (and as a result, consumers) between a rock and a hard place. Subscription services haven't caught on in the App Store economy, and those that have are tied to services that are completely subscription based. Adding a per-month charge for Hulu just for the iPad is excessive for most consumers, especially considering that the desktop version will likely remain free. Add this to the fact that the iPad is marketed as a secondary device, and suddenly, Hulu is catering to a small number of frequent travelers who pay for 3G service, and spend most of their time on their iPad, away from a regular computer.
And that brings up the second issue, that of 3G. Hulu will have to figure out how to circumvent the stingy bandwidth restrictions imposed by carriers if they want to make 3G streaming a reality. In fact, AT&T only recently lifted their 20MB limit for downloads over their 3G network, and a theme of the Barcelona Mobile World Congress was that cellular networks, globally, are overwhelmed by the data usage of smartphones. Thus, you can deduce that carriers won't be happy if users start downloading 7.5 MB per minute on a Hulu video (1Mbps).
The other inconsistency that such a plan would present is that of planned tablets with support for Flash. Will Hulu pull a Boxee and block forthcoming tablets like the Notion Ink Adam and the JooJoo, who have promised Hulu support, or will they only charge for the iPad version? Of course, the fact that the answers to these questions aren't straightforward is the exact reason that Kafka notes that Hulu is still strategizing internally, so they will probably wait until they have a comprehensive solution before they move forward.
The final arbiter, of course, is Apple, because even if Hulu figures out their plan, Apple might decide that Hulu "duplicates the functionality" of the iTunes TV shows, and block their app.
What would you pay (if anything) for Hulu on your iPad? Let us know in the comments.