Hulu has been pushing its free content users to turn into paying subscribers for a while now. It started off innocuously enough when they simply advertised a paid option that would tune out more of the commercial interruptions in the shows. Then came the shrinking selection of free content while premium stuff got fenced off to the subscriber elite. But maybe we just weren’t listening enough to the gentle prodding because Hulu has now decided they’re pulling the plug on free content completely to focus on their subscription service.
In the end, the ad-supported free service that attracted millions of viewers to Hulu in the first place was no match for the more profitable subscription model. From now on, Hulu will only offer its two subscription options: $7.99 for the one with ads, and $11.99 for the commercial-free edition.
“For the past couple years, we’ve been focused on building a subscription service that provides the deepest, most personalized content experience possible to our viewers,” Hulu senior vice president Ben Smith said in a statement. “As we have continued to enhance that offering with new originals, exclusive acquisitions and movies, the free service became very limited and no longer aligned with the Hulu experience or content strategy.”
As well-recognized as Hulu is, it’s struggled to keep up with competitors like Netflix and hasn’t yet proved itself profitable. Hulu’s 12 million subscriber count is easily eclipsed by Netflix’s 83 million ballpark. So it’s no wonder Hulu has been taking a page from Netflix by beefing up its premium content with movies and original shows and putting a price tag on access.
But this isn’t the end for those who still want their TV to come free. Hulu signed a deal with Yahoo to move their free content over to Yahoo View – which offers the five most recent episodes of shows from ABC, NBC and Fox. So accessing your ad-supported content will be as easy as adding a new browser bookmark.
The deal comes after some pretty big changes in ownership for both Hulu and Yahoo. Less than a week prior, Time Warner announced it will take a 10% stake in Hulu at a price of $583 million, joining existing owners Disney, 21st Century Fox and Comcast. And last month, Verizon announced it would buy Yahoo’s core business at a price of $4.4 billion.
“Video is an important part of Yahoo’s strategy and we’re committed to delivering the best digital video content to our users” said Phil Lynch, VP and head of media partnerships for Yahoo. “This partnership with Hulu is a natural extension of that strategy, bringing the best of TV and entertainment content to our lifestyle vertical.”
So while Hulu is moving to be more like Netflix, Yahoo is moving to be more like old Hulu. And media content platforms continue to shuffle themselves around to find that sweet spot between satisfying consumer viewing habits and generating profit.