updated 07:45 pm EDT, Tue July 26, 2011
Fox demands 8-day delay on Hulu shows
Fox on Tuesday night set out to shelter traditional TV with a long hinted-at plan to delay TV shows on Hulu for non-subscribers. Free viewers will face an eight-day delay for access to Fox TV shows unless they either pay for Hulu Plus or can prove they subscribe to a conventional TV service. Only satellite provider Dish Network is so far cleared to give users same-day access in the strategy, which starts up August 15.
It's unknown if other studios will follow suit. The head of Fox's parent company News Corp, Rupert Murdoch, has been the most vocal opponent to the broader trend towards the free, ad-supported web. NBCUniversal is a potential candidate since its new owner Comcast has a vested interest in trying to preserve traditional cable TV.
Such requirements to authenticate with a legacy cable, IPTV, or satellite service isn't new and is commonplace for services like Comcast's Xfinity TV or HBO Go. Many had hoped it wouldn't reach Hulu, however, as the service's supposed role as a neutral platform potentially let it serve as a TV replacement for those not tied to older viewing habits.
Studios have stood in a difficult middle ground. They helped support Hulu in 2008 as a way to discourage show piracy but have also been burdened by a need to please TV service providers. Most ad revenue still comes from traditional TV, and cable or satellite companies have always implied that they could pull channels if Hulu becomes too popular and encourages viewers to drop their TV bundles in favor of going online-only.
Until now, most of the limitation has been based on the choice of platform, not the content. Pressure from studios has made Hulu limit free viewing to the web and actively block it on Google TV or other platforms unless members pay for Plus subscriptions.