Hulu Announces Cable-Like Broadcast Streaming Service, But There’s A Catch

Is Hulu setting itself up as a serious challenge to Comcast through its upcoming cable-like broadcast service? Well…it depends on who you ask.

If you ask disillusioned Comcast customers paying hundreds of dollars per month for broadcast and streaming services they barely use, $40 a month for the proposed Hulu plan sounds like a fair shake. However, if you’re a “cord cutter” seeking to lower costs, then Hulu’s proposed package might feel a bit lacking.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Hulu is working on a subscription service made up of “popular broadcast and cable TV channels.” The streaming service currently offers strictly on-demand access to content — meaning nothing gets streamed “live.” This change would mean that, for a certain price, Hulu customers would be able to watch their favorite TV shows as they were broadcast live on TV.

The Wall Street Journal believes that Disney’s ABC, ESPN, and Disney Channel will be available for this new service. Fox Channels are expected to be included as well. Also, and interestingly enough, Comcast’s NBC Universal, which is a part owner of Hulu, is projected to include channels for the future cable-like service.

Although Hulu’s new business model is sort of like cable, it’s not exactly cable customers that Hulu is reportedly targeting. Engadget points out that the streaming service is hoping to compete with services like “Sling TV and PlayStation Vue,” who are also hoping to cash in on the cord-cutting craze.

The problem is that, with so many streaming services already around, and with none of them offering complete “a la carte” access to hundreds of channels as traditional cable, it’s questionable whether or not Hulu will indeed represent a solution to cord cutters instead of a pricey disappointment.

It’s no secret that Comcast’s skyrocketing prices and unapologetic monopoly on cable services have Americans scrambling for a more affordable solution. The solution for many has been to cut costs by dropping Comcast’s cable TV broadcasting service and opting for internet only. The “internet only” is the all important thread keeping millions of people tied to the company.

It’s that one thread that would-be competitors have yet to address.

Instead, they seem to be primarily focused on replacing TV programming and the live broadcast experience — as if that’s something that cord cutters have already proven they can do without. The entire point of cord-cutting is to reduce cost. By introducing a starting package at $40, Hulu might knock itself out of contention before it even gets started.

Playstation Vue has a tier system, where its most basic package is also $40. Sling TV slots in at $20. Hulu may be able to justify being more expensive than Sling, which has 20-30 channels. However, Playstation Vue can potentially grant access to more shows for about the same price.

With more “bang for your buck,” it could even be argued to be the cheaper option in the long run!

The streaming field has crowded up with ambitious efforts to replace Comcast, and Hulu hopes it can get a piece of the action. Now the question becomes whether these services represent a sizeable threat to cable providers after all.

As Endgadget noted, the effort to break away from traditional cable broadcast media often results in paying for several different services. This can bring costs right back to near what you were hoping to get away from — and it could even exceed previous costs.

Perhaps Hulu and similar companies can brainstorm costs and services. Otherwise, they may find the cord cutters they’re courting will ultimately decide to walk away from their streaming services, too.

Do you think Hulu stands a chance? Share your thoughts below.

[Photo courtesy of Garrett Heath via Flickr| Cropped and Resized | CC BY-2.0 ]