Details are sketchy at the moment, but Hulu announced last week that it will unveil a TV streaming service next year that shows live programming, including sports.
Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins confirmed that the streaming service is negotiating with Fox, ABC, ESPN, FX and the Disney Channel for a service that doesn’t require a cable TV subscription.
This is another crossing of the Rubicon in the changing environment of how we consume TV programming. Many of us have already cut the cord with cable TV systems as viewers grab control of what they are offered and what they pay for.
Unless you are a sports fan, it’s probably just easy enough to subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, HBO GO and Amazon and be done with it. You don’t get live programming and Hulu shows day-old shows from the networks it has agreements with, but a new live streaming service is the logical next step.
The cable networks have responded by beefing up its On Demand services so that you get episodes of the network TV shows you subscribe to. But live programming from Hulu will trump that.
Hulu and sports?
The interesting part of this is Hulu’s inclusion of ESPN. Sports have been the key in cable TV remaining relevant because any sports fan needs cable TV or satellite TV to watch the major sports. (Or even the minor ones.)
Right now, ESPN does have a viewing app for its programming, but the app still tied into having a subscription to a cable or satellite TV service. It’s only a matter of time until it goes the HBO route and allows you to subscribe directly to the network.
Additionally, I would expect many networks to follow suit along with the streaming services themselves. What’s to keep Amazon, for example, from adopting a similar live programming framework? Or even Netflix for that matter? Or even NBC? (CBS already has something similar.)
In essence, the streaming services will become their own cable TV systems but at a lower cost. If there’s anything that has prompted the cable cutting more than anything it’s the high cost of cable and satellite TV.
Or at least the perception of the high cost. Consumers, even if they end up paying as much with all the streaming services, like the illusion of control that streaming services offer.
Cable and satellite TV fees feel imposed, while the streaming services feel ordered.
Just wait. It won’t be long until you will be able to watch the Super Bowl or the Olympics, the biggest sporting events, without subscribing to a cable or satellite TV service. Then what will Comcast and Time Warner Cable do?