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Paid Hulu in 2 Months (or Less)?

The Hulu rumors resurface once again. This time, two sources have been cited by a Reuters report confirming, for what seems like the thousandth time, that indeed Hulu is poised to roll out a subscription service. And like the sources quoted last month by the L.A. Times, this will start soon – perhaps even within the next month or two.

The only new information in today’s report is that this supposed paid version of Hulu may now be making its way to other devices, including Apple’s iPad and Microsoft’s Xbox 360.

With no official confirmation, not to mention a complete lack of details regarding launch dates, pricing plans, device support, program offerings, etc., you may wonder why the Hulu rumors are reported again and again by numerous technology publications (including, uh, this one).

The reason, beyond of course the fact that Hulu is one of the most-beloved U.S.-based services for online TV-watching, has to do with how completely inaccessible it is on anything other than your personal computer. Due to various restrictions put in place by the content owners (the studios and rights holders for the TV programming and movies Hulu hosts), the service is tied to the desktop and regularly blocked on other devices that try sneaky methods to access it elsewhere.

Hulu: Blocked Everywhere You Go

Hulu has, in the past, blocked home theater freeware program (and now set-top box) Boxee, mobile phone Web browsers (both the default browsers on smartphones and Flash-enabled ones like the iPhone’s “Cloud Browse” app and the cross-platform SkyFire), the TV browser Kylo, TV.com, anonymous proxies, workarounds that trick Hulu into thinking you’re using a desktop browser and not an Android phone, PS3 Web browsers and pretty much anything else you can think of.

In other words, in an increasingly mobile world, Hulu is nowhere to be found.

Subscriptions: Will You Pay?

But that may be about to change, if the Reuters and L.A. Times sources are telling the truth. According to the latest information, the long-rumored subscription service is definitely a go and will arrive on multiple devices, including the Xbox and iPad.

Hulu, as a rule, doesn’t comment on speculation and rumors, but a recent NY Times interview with Hulu’s chief executive Jason Kilar hinted at a pay-for-access business model. “We’re certainly open to subscriptions as a complement to an ad-supported model,” he had said at the time, giving Hulu fans hope that they’ve clung to for months.

One source here at ReadWriteWeb told us they had, ages ago, seen with their very own eyes the Hulu iPhone application, but that the company wasn’t ready to release such an app until a business model could be worked out.

Now, it seems Hulu is ready to test paid subscriptions. Currently, the service has been limited with regard to episode line-up and choice. Some networks don’t participate; some only offer smatterings of content and for hit shows; only the most recent handful of episodes are available. This latter problem doesn’t permit “catching up” on a series or getting involved with a show that’s been on for several seasons, unfortunately. But under the new subscription model, customers could get access to older episodes for $9.95 per month, starting with hit shows like “Glee” and “Saturday Night Live,” sources told the L.A. Times in April.

Now, the question is: Will people pay? Economically, this may be the very best time to find out. Due to the recession, everyone is trying to save money by cutting expenses – especially luxuries like cable TV. Instead of paying for a large cable bill, a $10-per-month subscription to Hulu could, in theory, provide just enough TV to make going cable-free finally worthwhile.

About ReadWrite’s Editorial Process

The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

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