Hulu Abandons Free Service; to become Subscription Only

John Lister's picture

Hulu is ditching its free TV service, though it will still be available in a different form. Analysts believe the move was forced on it by the television industry.

Up until now, Hulu users had three options for streaming video online. The free, basic service let users watch many network and cable shows the day after broadcast - but only if users watched commercials. In most cases, the five most recent episodes of a show were available online.

Customers can also pay $7.99 a month for a "limited commercials" option, or $11.99 a month to cut out commercials altogether. Both of these paid options also give users a much deeper archive of shows, plus some original programming that doesn't air on TV. The paid options also include mobile app access, while the free service was for traditional web browsers only.

Yahoo View may be Replacement

The free Hulu service will disappear shortly, with registered users being offered a one-week free trial of both paid services. Rather surprisingly, a very similar 'free service with commercials' option will now be available on Yahoo View, which will in fact be "featuring Hulu." While this will also offer the five most recent episodes of shows, it's not yet clear if the range will be as extensive as Hulu. It will also be available through web browsers only, for now.

Hulu itself is planning a third paid service to launch next year that will offer live streaming of entire channels, rather than merely offering individual shows on demand. Similar attempts to offer such a service, effectively an Internet-only version of a cable TV package, have proven challenging for licensing reasons. One particular obstacle is that they rely on broadband connections that are usually provided by cable firms that also try to sell TV packages. (Source:

TV Firms Want to Fight Netflix

Industry analysts think there's a couple of reasons why Hulu has decided to rethink its strategy. One is that the companies which produce many TV shows and own television networks simply don't like the idea of giving content away for free online.

Another is that the owners of Hulu -- which include many major TV companies -- want to make it a serious competitor to Netflix. They feel the only way to do that is through investing in more big-budget original programming, something they feel isn't possible until they can get a bigger subscriber base. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Have you ever used Hulu's free or paid services? If you're a free user, will this move push you towards a subscription or will you simply move over to Yahoo View instead? Will online video ever be a complete replacement for cable TV, or do issues such as cable carriers dominating the broadband market make this impossible?

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Dennis Faas's picture

The only way I would purchase such a plan is if they ditch commercials entirely. If they are merely offering a way to stream live TV with commercials, I think they are going to fail miserably. I rarely watch Netflix - but the one thing that I appreciate about it is that it has no commercials. In comparison, channels like TLC (the learning channel) are the *worst* for showing the same commercials over and over and over again, while delivering what seems like just a few minutes of content in between. No thanks!

twistedvincent_7540's picture

I agree, Hulu will fail miserably with the limited commercials whan Netflix has none and with a LOT of original programming.

nate04pa's picture

Remember that Netflix was always basically a paid service both before and after they split streaming only from streaming with DVD's. So Netflix was able to afford the licensing fees for streamed content and production costs for original content.

Streaming live TV with commercials for a fee is not much different from using cable, satellite, or FIOS. Live streaming might give these providers some competition.

kitekrazy's picture

Their commercials are not about products but feelings and social engineering that may be offensive and not appropriate for children and this is during child programs.

norascats's picture

I'm fairly new to Hulu, and I don't find the commercials to be that bad. My TV stations are flooded with ads for drugs which are really disgusting.
I only get basic cable because I don't want to pay $50 extra for a bunch of stations I'll never watch just to get one or two that I want.
The whole thing is a work in progress. there's no reason that Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon prime can't keep improving service to keep the competition alive.

matt_2058's picture

I like watching movies and never really watch the sit-coms or over-the-air channels. Hollywood Video had a flat-fee program. I watch alot of Netflix, but haven't tried Hulu. I don't think we will have complete online video content until infrastructure is upgraded to reach more people and handle the traffic.

What's really nice is the idea of pay for what you watch, but Apple and Amazon per-episode pricing is ridiculous. I'd be willing to cut 70-80% of my cable channels if I could cut the bill equally. Even with all the commercials, I'd rather have educational stuff playing like tech-based programs and the History channel or semi-educational historical-based programs. And various other programs that I can learn something from rather than mindless 'reality' shows.

norske's picture

We tried the CBS All-Access so we could keep up with The Good Wife while traveling - and I absolutely hated the advertising.

I could put up with a little bit of it, but they'd re-run the exact same ad over and over during a program - it was really annoying.

There are plenty of things to watch with very minimal ads.