ABC On Hulu Makes Apple TV Look Bad
Hulu just announced ABC will add their shows to the hugely popular video website. The only major broadcast network not on Hulu is CBS.
In my particular living room, this is a big deal, as my wife watches Grey’s Anatomy, purchased through iTunes. Now that the show (if it isn’t put out of its misery) will be on Hulu, and Boxee continues to provide Hulu (against their will) on the Apple TV (yes, there are a lot of middle men there: ABC -> Hulu -> Apple TV -> Boxee -> Television) but the point is, instead of paying Apple to watch the show, most likely we’ll just watch it via Hulu.
So ABC’s move to Hulu has me asking a larger question – if Apple’s pay-for-play strategy is the right one. The more I grow comfortable with the idea of video delivered over the Internet via sites like Hulu or Netflix Watch Instantly, the more I feel subscription and streaming is the way to go.
Downloading has become too much hassle, mostly in terms of file management. I download TV show to the desktop streaming to the Apple TV, otherwise, the Apple TV would quickly become filled with episodes and rentals (it’s a 40GB version). That amount of stroage isn’t enough for a full season of any show, especially with HD. The iTunes download set up works great for music but less so with 600MB to 1GB files.
Even with movie rentals downloaded directly to the Apple TV, I’ve occasionally run into frustration. I start watching a movie that is partly downloaded, and it shows up as a white screen. The work-around is to let the movie completely download and restart the Apple TV. The complete download part is key, because I once restarted the Apple TV and the movie vanished, necessitating an email to Apple to get a refund. All not fun, since waiting for a whole movie to download means at least ten minutes if not more.
But back to Apple – Boxee demonstrates streaming is technically possible on the Apple TV. There has been some speculation that Apple would do well to change its content offerings to a streaming model. There’s got to be a middle road where Apple still makes money and doesn’t cannibalize sales of shows proper.
Say theycharged a monthly fee for streaming access to everything produced by a particular show or channel, with higher quality than Hulu, and no ads. No ownership of the files to push to your iPod, if you want that you can do pay for play.
The monthly fee would allow us to forget about pay per play and just enjoy the shows. This would essentially be the ala carte model people want from cable, and that cable companies are reluctant to offer, that currently exists in the iTunes Store, but without the download part. I’d sign up immediately. An even bigger bombshell would a Netflix style service where you pay a monthly fee for streaming video. I need to lie down now.
Streaming is so much more satisfying and more TV-like. Our Roku Box has been hassle-free since purchase. The ala-carte model described above is basically what Amazon On Demand provides through the Netflix Roku Box. But that situation of too many middlemen is a bit annoying (pay Netflix for the hardware and Amazon for the content). Apple could do the whole streaming hog in a more elegant, particularly Apple way.
Or they could just add Hulu support to the Apple TV, but I don’t think that will happen.