Finally, Hulu is coming to cable—kind of. Cablevision and Hulu recently announced a deal that will turn Optimum, Cablevision’s Internet service, into a carrier of sorts for Hulu paid subscriptions.
Instead of going to Hulu.com and signing up for Hulu Plus, Optimum customers will be able to pay for a Hulu subscription through their ISP. The joint announcement from Cablevision and Hulu didn’t explicitly use the Hulu Plus name so it’s not clear if the service will be re-branded for Optimum subscribers or if it will differ in any way.
The announcement also didn’t explicitly state what the subscription would cost, but according to Recode, it appears pricing will still be around $8 per month—the same cost as when you sign-up directly on Hulu’s site. Cablevision says it will soon have more information to share about the Hulu deal including pricing, availability, and “other particulars.”
The companies didn’t say whether Optimum subscribers would be blocked from signing up for Hulu Plus directly on Hulu.com.
Hulu Plus gives subscribers access to current-season past episodes of popular TV shows and a full back catalog of older shows, though exact availability differs from show to show. The free version of Hulu allows access only to the five most recent episodes of newer shows. Hulu Plus also cuts down on the amount of ads you see during a show and lets you watch Hulu on mobile devices, set-top boxes, consoles, and smart TVs.
Why this matters: Making Optimum the first “distributor” of Hulu will likely put the service in front of people who wouldn’t otherwise pay for it. But for cord-cutters it may sound like more of the same from a cable provider. The Cablevision-Hulu deal could create a foundation for ISPs to build their own content bundles similar to what cable companies do with TV right now. It may not be a big deal with just Hulu, but if this first push is successful other online content providers may look for similar “distribution” deals. Before you know it, signing up for content bundles via your ISP could become as normal as figuring out which cable bundle you want.
Cablevision’s Hulu deal comes shortly after reports surfaced about Comcast promising to “enhance Hulu’s value” during a Hulu management meeting in 2013. As the parent of NBCUniversal, Comcast has a stake in Hulu along with Fox and Disney.
Comcast’s idea was to make Hulu the “nationwide streaming platform for the cable TV industry,” according to The Wall Street Journal. The hope being this would grow Hulu’s subscriber base and make it a more serious competitor to Netflix.
Hulu is arguably already the pre-eminent streaming platform for cable TV since it offers so many current episodes for online streaming. Other streaming services don't.
The site is also reportedly getting a major addition to its catalog of older shows. Through a deal with Sony Pictures, the 90s hit show Seinfeld will come exclusively to Hulu, according to Variety. The Seinfeld deal is expected to be announced on Wednesday.