Comcast Sucks the Life Out of Hulu
Your friendly neighborhood cable provider is sucking the life out of the Internet's best venue for streaming TV shows.
Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) has finally announced the full details of its so-called Streampix service, a $4.99 a month streaming video entity that will allow users to spend extra money to watch additional content.
I know what you're thinking: “Comcast has found a way to charge people more money? Who could have ever seen this coming!?!?” Joking aside, this is serious business.
The details of the agreement – which include a handful of “past full seasons” of TV series like Grey's Anatomy, Lost, and Married…with Children, as well as a handful of old movies and five kids' shows – are irrelevant. Streampix is a bargain-bin Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) clone that could have been used to drive the Reed Hastings empire further into the ground. Instead, Comcast has chosen to go the cheapskate route and provide Streampix subscribers with as little value as possible.
As depressing as this may sound, it would have been nice if that had been the end of the story. But it's not – far from it.
The full list of Streampix TV shows includes:
- 30 Rock (NBC)
- Grey's Anatomy (ABC)
- Heroes (NBC)
- Lost (ABC)
- Married…with Children (Sony)
- The Office (NBC)
- Ugly Betty (ABC)
- The Secret Life of the American Teenager (ABC Family)
See anything interesting in there? How about the show at the top – 30 Rock? If you're a fan of the Tina Fey comedy, then chances are you are aware of the show's mysterious disappearance from Hulu Plus. You know Hulu, right? It's the streaming video site that was essentially founded with money from NBC and Fox, and was initially populated with content from NBC before other networks came aboard. Hulu was supposed to be the ultimate online hub for TV content, particularly shows from NBC. But when Comcast announced that it wanted to buy NBC, I speculated about the negative impacts that the merger could have for Hulu.
“If Comcast takes over NBC, you have to wonder what might become of Hulu,” I wrote in December 2010. “As it stands now, Hulu Plus is great; instead of forcing consumers to pay for the base slate of content (which is still free), subscribers are treated to an expanded offering. But remember: Comcast is all about content, and it would be naïve to think that the cable provider will sit by and allow Hulu to continue to give it away for free.”
Comcast was ultimately forced to relinquish any control it had over Hulu, though it still technically owns a 30% stake in the site. So instead of swallowing Hulu as I predicted, Comcast has decided to move its most popular and/or most critically acclaimed shows to Streampix.
Does this mean The Office will soon dump Hulu for Streampix? Unless a multi-year agreement is already in place with Hulu, that is exactly what it means.
But the worst is yet to come. Next fall, NBC will debut a new lineup of shows. Some of those shows might actually be worth watching. And if they are, you can be certain that all but the most recent episodes will go straight to Streampix.
If there is any positive to be announced today, it's that Comcast has signed agreements with both Sony (NYSE: SNE) and Warner Bros. (NYSE: TWX). The current result of those agreements is hilariously bad; no one is going to care about watching Analyze That or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. But long-term, Streampix subscribers could be treated to newer and more desirable movies from Sony or Warner Bros.
For those of you who are curious about the content that Comcast currently offers, here is the complete list of movies and kids' shows featured on Streampix:
- Analyze That (Warner Bros. Pictures)
- Brokeback Mountain (Universal)
- Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Sony)
- Ocean's Eleven (Warner Bros. Pictures)
- Stuart Little (Sony)
- When Harry Met Sally (Warner Bros. Pictures)
- The Big Lebowski (Universal)
- Inspector Gadget (Cookie Jar Entertainment)
- Paddington Bear (Cookie Jar Entertainment)
- Strawberry Shortcake (Cookie Jar Entertainment)
- The Suite Life of Zack & Cody (Disney Channel)
- Wizards of Waverly Place (Disney Channel)
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