Thursday, January 12, 2012

Hulu Plus Growing - Does That Indicate Cord Cutting?

Lots of news coming from CES this week and one that caught my eye was that the subscription service arm from Hulu, Hulu Plus, has exceeded 1.2 million paying customers. What is interesting is the kind of deals Hulu Plus has created. Some programming license deals require a Hulu Plus customer to also be "authenticated" by a cable operator. "Those deals with give subscribers to those operators-none of which have been announced-access the next day to broadcast content streamed to their Xbox Live." Certainly some deals with programmers don't require an operator "authentication" to stream online TV content.

So is this good news for Hulu Plus customers? I'd love to find out what percentage of Hulu Plus customers have retained their cable subscription and what percentage has cut the cable cord. It seems by this announcment that the Hulu Plus strategy is migrating to a model that is trying not to hurt the cable subscription business. But can you have your cake and eat it too.

The consumers of Hulu Plus may find that the majority of content they thought they would get would give them the shows they want to watch with the burden of a high priced cable subscription. It now looks like Hulu Plus is moving toward another on demand platform for the cable operator. And if that same cable operator is already authenticating its customers on devices for web access, why should that same customer have any need to take a Hulu Plus subscription. It seems unnecessary.

It is obvious that TV content creators are experimenting as a means to determine the most ideal digital distribution model. We are becoming an on demand world where consumers want access to what they want to watch, where they want and when they want. And cost for this convenience is also a factor. Ultimately the consumer may pay more for their a la carte choices but feel more satisfied paying less overall for only the content they want to watch.

What Does The UltraViolet - Amazon Deal Offer?

There are multiple reports that Amazon is growing its cloud offerings with a deal to sell UltraViolet movies. Some sources believe the deal is tied to one of the UV partners, Warner Brothers, and no details of the agreement have been released. "Analyst Jan Dawson of Ovum said the biggest challenge to UltraViolet comes from the top competitors in online retail for entertainment: Apple and Amazon. Each of them maintains its own online 'lockers' for purchases. If Amazon really commits to UltraViolet, that would be a 'total game changer,' Dawson said."

So is Amazon considering converting its cloud to the UltraViolet solution or simply offering its customers more choices? While Amazon is know to sell both physical DVDs and downloads, will the new UV deal require a disc still be purchased or will UV adapt to enable a download only model? Clearly the studios got behind UltraViolet in an attempt to extend the product life of the physical DVD. It is hard to imagine that they will get off that requirement too quickly. If a digital only solution is part of the Amazon UltraViolet deal, then that represents a major strategic shift.

Would Apple ever agree to such a deal? Most likely not. Apple likes to work in its own closed platform. Studios would have to agree to an Apple iTune cloud model, one without the requirement of a physical DVD purchase. And Apple is not one to follow along.

So is the Amazon Ultraviolet deal a game changer? Amazon definitely gives the movement credibility. It likely enables an Amazon cloud consumer to have access to these films from their Amazon account. At the same time there are only a handful of titles available and consumers could just as easily buy them from the Amazon website or pick up from Target or Walmart and access through a Flixter account and through connected devices. We will definitely wait for more news to learn more what this new partnership means for Amazon and the UltraViolet movement.