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Enjoying all that free content on Hulu.com? Quite happy to watch network TV shows the day after they air on your HDTV via Hulu Plus? Well, enjoy it while it lasts, because the content providers appear hellbent on ruining a good thing.
The New York Post is reporting that Hulu’s ad-supported free ride may eventually sputter and run out of gas, at least if the television networks have anything to say about it. That’s because the streaming company may one day require viewers to authenticate a cable or satellite TV account in order to let the good times roll on.
You may have already heard about this authentication scheme, referred to as “TV Everywhere” -- it’s currently in use by HBO for the pay cable channel’s HBO Go app on various platforms, and the Fox network is scheming to introduce the model to Comcast viewers as well.
“The move toward authentication is fueled by cable companies and networks looking to protect and profit from their content,” the report notes. “The effort comes as entertainment companies continue to face drastic shifts in home viewing habits. Overall spending on home entertainment edged up 2.5 percent to $4.45 billion in the first quarter as a surge in digital streaming -- which rose more than fivefold to $549 million -- offset a continuing collapse in video rentals, according to Digital Entertainment Group.”
Hulu is jointly owned by News Corp. (Fox), Disney, Comcast and Providence Equity Partners, the latter of which is eager to “cash out of Hulu after five years,” according to sources. The proposed authentication scheme could see Hulu’s fortunes shrink, even as the company rang up $420 million in ad sales last year and is expected to do even better in 2012.
The only good news in this mess is that Hulu’s attempts to move toward authentication “could take years to complete” -- so let’s hope that executives can come to their senses before then.
Follow this article’s author, J.R. Bookwalter on Twitter