Hulu Lobs Premium Pass to TiVo, Roku

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How many more digital pennies can content owners squeeze out of television junkies?

News today from three companies with four-letter names: Hulu’s $9.99 per month subscription package — currently in a private beta test — soon will be coming to broadband-connected TiVo DVRs and Roku set-tops (see TiVo, Roku Announce Hulu Plus Partnership).

Note that a separate subscription to the TiVo service — $12.95 per month — will be required to access Hulu Plus on TiVo Premiere DVRs. (Roku doesn’t charge any extra subscription fee.)

Meanwhile, if you want to actually watch live TV on your TV, you’re most likely going to be paying for cable, satellite or telco TV service. Unless you’re getting free over-the-air broadcasts… which have the same shows that are in Hulu Plus.

Obviously, Hulu Plus will not be a replacement for regular TV, as Americans know and love it. So to me, it’s not clear that millions of people will bite on Hulu Plus, especially given the free Hulu service offers so much stuff already.

True, Hulu Plus will let viewers watch content via multiple devices, including HDTVs and gaming consoles — whereas Hulu has tried to disable ways to stream the free service to big-screen sets (see Hulu Blocks Hillcrest’s Browser Work-Around).

And the Hulu Plus bucket of content is bigger than the free site. The premium Hulu Plus package will offer every episode of more than 45 current programs from ABC, FOX and NBC, including Modern Family, Grey’s Anatomy, Glee, Family Guy, The Office and 30 Rock — but, if you’d programmed your TiVo properly, you would already have been able to watch those shows.

Anyway, Hulu Plus also will have full series and back seasons of dozens of older shows like The X-Files, Law and Order: SVU, Arrested Development, Saturday Night Live, Miami Vice, Ugly Betty, Quantum Leap, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Roswell and Ally McBeal.

The real competition for Hulu Plus still seems to be the revamped Apple TV, with its 99-cent rental offer of some Fox, ABC, ABC Family, Disney Channel and BBC America shows (see Apple Takes Another Crack At The TV).

Whatever the consumer uptake of Hulu Plus, TiVo touted the distinction that its DVR will be the only device that combines the service into one user interface, in one box. Roku and the other Hulu Plus-enabled devices, including HDTVs, Blu-ray disc players and game consoles, are all “input 2 devices” so users have to toggle between interfaces and inputs.

“TiVo is the complete TV entertainment solution. No other service is as robust or offers consumers the ability to access live TV, Web video, and video on demand content from one box like TiVo does,” Tara Maitra, TiVo VP and general manager of content services and ad sales, said in the company’s announcement.

Hulu, founded in 2007, is owned by NBC Universal, News Corp., The Walt Disney Co. and Providence Equity Partners (see Disney Jumps Into Hulu Hoop and Pumping Up a New Tube).

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