Streaming video services may soon require cable TV subscriptions

Thanks to streaming (and a little help from BitTorrent,) folks are increasingly ditching their cable TV service to watch videos online. The cable companies aren’t giving up without a fight, though. According to the New York Post, some streaming services will soon require users to enter a cable TV account number before they can watch content. This so-called authentication model is reportedly being considered by Hulu. A separate article reveals that the “vast majority” of NBC’s streaming Olympics coverage will require authentication, as well.

TechCrunch has additional information from a source close to Hulu, who confirms that the company has been looking into authentication for several years. Hulu apparently doesn’t want to be the first service to require authentication, but it “may have to give in to its partners’ pressure soon or later.” Although Hulu subscribers without cable TV accounts may not be locked out of the service entirely, it seems they could be denied access to shows for at least 30 days after their initial release.

If streaming services move to an authentication model that gives cable TV subscribers early or exclusive access to content, I can’t help but think other users will turn to illicit sources like BitTorrent. Indeed, authentication requirements may drive even more users to cut the cord on their cable service, if only out of spite.

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    • ShadowEyez
    • 7 years ago

    This is simple economics – the companies who make and resell the content feel (maybe rightly or wrongly) that they cannot provide quality content with everyone at the $9-10/month streaming model and need the $50-$70/month cable bill instead.

    The technical back-ends of cable and internet streaming are the same, and the cost of the actual delivery is minimal, now that the infrastructure is (mostly) built. It comes down to paying the people for their work of producing shows – the people who produce it, including actors, directors, set designers, writers, and all the others involved, are essentially saying they need more than the standard streaming rate. This has been going on for years now, and the streaming services highlight the fact.

    If the internet steaming/resale companies (hulu, netflix, etc…) were to start charging traditional cable bill rates, they could negotiate better with the studios/producers to get all the first run shows and movies. On the other side of the coin, if the cable companies (comcast, time warner etc…) were all to drop their prices to the standard streaming service rates, they would find it difficult/impossible to get licenses to play first-run shows/movies. Witness AT&T – when they got into the TV/cable market, they used their own infrastructure through U-verse, and given the prices they charge is equivalent to traditional cable, they got pretty much the same content cable had, in a very short time frame. The studios view: you get what you pay for.

    So what’s the solution? Try to get the studios to lower their licensing rates and let more providers/resellers get access to their content? Through what mechanism? Government regulation? Threat or use of pirated material to show them “we’ll get what we want anyway”? Alternate content providers to encourage more competition and lower prices (not that indie films and shows all suck, but does any one really WANT to watch another Asylum studio ripoff)? None of these seems to be working on a large scale.

    What most of us as consumers want was blogged about on TR a few weeks ago: all or most of the good/new content including shows and movies, with minimal or no advertising, all on one service, on any device (TV, console, computer, tablet, phone, etc…), for $9-10/month. Am I wrong?

    I’m open to suggestions here! Can this really be done for $9-10/month, with the studios/producers on board?

    • Bensam123
    • 7 years ago

    This is the fastest way to make anyone who uses your streaming service to drop it. I’m sure they’ll keep dropping the services till there aren’t any available and then they’ll pirate it.

    Some companies really do have too much money. Instead of using it to better their services, they’re just using it to try and lock down potential customers. I understand people in charge of big corps think they can brute force everything and get there way, but some finesse is needed when you deal with people and you want them to do what you want. Maybe even compromising a bit.

    • internetsandman
    • 7 years ago

    I’m gonna put this nice and simply for big cable companies: adapt or die. If the market is changing, don’t fight it to keep hold of it, change with it. You’ll find that you’ll get much better reviews and much happier customers if you adapt to changing markets rather than fight tooth and nail to keep your existing and overpriced business models. If you can’t adapt to the new markets then you deserve to lose subscribers and their money, you clearly can’t provide what they want so why should they pay you for what you provide?

      • just brew it!
      • 7 years ago

      Clearly, they *are* adapting — not just in the way we’d like. That’s what happens when one company has too much control.

    • ShadowTiger
    • 7 years ago

    I can’t wait to see what happens when BitTorrent streaming goes live and lots of people start using it.

    • My Johnson
    • 7 years ago

    Shut up and pay the Man!

    • Krogoth
    • 7 years ago

    I don’t care about this crap anymore.

    Old media is already dying from a combination of stagnation and irreverence. They only provide sub-par, rehashed content, overloaded with lame ads that is overpriced as hell.

    They can keeping crying about “piracy” all they want. I’m not “consuming” their content (ie not buying or pirating it). It is not worth my time, bandwidth or energy.

    The only people who are laughing to bank in this are the lawyers who lobbied, create and retain these poorly convinced laws.

    • FuturePastNow
    • 7 years ago

    I’m guessing my “internet only” cable subscription won’t count for this. Screw ’em.

    • xeridea
    • 7 years ago

    I have a feeling 90% of their subscribers would vanish because the entire point of getting Hulu/Netflix is to get rid of your cable/sat, to save $30-100/month, and not watch commercials.

    Its just like the RIAA/MPAA trying to get stupid control measures in place to keep screwing everyone out of money because their business model sucks and don’t want to accept the fact that people adapt and like things that fit their style, not what the big media companies try shoehorning them into.

    Like others say, this will just encouraging torrenting from those who stopped because hulu/netflix was reasonably priced and convenient enough to make it not worth the effort.

      • Anonymous Coward
      • 7 years ago

      Don’t worry, the established companies would love streaming to go away, and all that piracy is just a temporary inconvenience that a few more rounds of new laws can address nicely. Maybe helped along by a new generation of devices that conspire against their users.

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 7 years ago

    HA HA HA. Hulu and Netflix has made paying customers out of pirates, renters, and second hand market afficianadoes. Now they plan to undo it all. I expect NBC will loose the exclusive broadcasting rights when its shown that only 1/2 of the viewers expected pony up. LOL. Companies are their own worst enemy. Try listening to their customers, “what do you want?” Should be the question. The answer is easy, less or no commercials, easy instant access, fixed monthly fee or per consumption fee.

    • HighTech4US2
    • 7 years ago

    Be aware the networks want to force everyone onto cable tv/fios and then get rid of the free OTA transmissions by selling the spectrum to mobile companies for a huge profit. Also the government is behind this because of the fees they get for selling the spectrum.

    This “require users to enter a cable TV account” is the first step in their plan.

    • HighTech4US2
    • 7 years ago

    WTF – NBC which is available to me for free via over the air (OTA 8VSB) antenna and DVRed with Windows Media Center is requiring me to become a cable TV subscriber. Well they can go just F themselves.

    If Hulu goes the authentication route then they can remove me as a subscriber also.

    And why is a monopoly like cable TV able to get away with this in the first place.

      • Deanjo
      • 7 years ago

      [quote<]And why is a monopoly like cable TV able to get away with this in the first place.[/quote<] Because the governments are whipping boys to their lobbies fearing that the next election they would lose their re-election funding. It has been happening in other large industries for years. Tobacco companies still are allowed to sell tobacco, oil companies are still overcharging and price fixing, hollywood cries falling revenues (although the IRS says otherwise) despite bringing out 101 remakes a year now, .....

    • albundy
    • 7 years ago

    to rrent or not torrent, that is the question…

      • HighTech4US2
      • 7 years ago

      I’ve been renting for years since I cut the cable.

        • kamikaziechameleon
        • 7 years ago

        try the second hand DVD store down the street or even online you can usually make out like a bandit.

    • grantmeaname
    • 7 years ago

    ESPNLive, a service that comes on the Xbox 360, required us to enter a cable account number last fall to watch games. That may be less surprising though, as it’s the internet delivery platform of a single channel.

      • BobbinThreadbare
      • 7 years ago

      You can watch that on a PC through a browser as well, and it’s all free, you do have to have a subscription though.

        • HighTech4US2
        • 7 years ago

        [quote<]You can watch that on a PC through a browser as well, and it's all free, you do have to have a subscription though.[/quote<] How can it be free if you have to have a cable tv subscription just to watch it? Buying a $40 basic cable tv subscription so you can watch ESPNLive is not free at all.

          • BobbinThreadbare
          • 7 years ago

          True, it’s service offered to subscribers at no additional cost.

          Which is more than I can say for most TV channels.

            • HighTech4US2
            • 7 years ago

            Well how about offering it for a fee to those of us who would like to watch it but have no desire to ever subscribe to cable tv.

            Why not offer it for the same fee they charge the cable companies to carry it.

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 7 years ago

            I hear you man. I wish I could do this, or at least have ala carte cable TV.

    • Noigel
    • 7 years ago

    Maybe take out commercials if a viewer inputs a cable user/pass but leave them in if they don’t.

    …but it is STUPID to use Hulu as a “lever” to drive viewers to cable.

    On par with:

    I can watch this DVD with my DVD player but first I’ve got to input the serial number from the back of my VCR…

    • superjawes
    • 7 years ago

    As expected, the internet reacts by FLIPPING MOAR TABLES!!!

    But that’s still riddiculous. I could understand NBC wanting to charge for online-only coverage of the olympics, and maybe you get a free pass if you already have cable/dish, but good luck trying to double charge someone for a service like this.

    • Vulk
    • 7 years ago

    It’s funny this is coming up. Didn’t Comcast officially agree not to do this when they settled with the DoJ to acquire NBC? Doesn’t NBC own a major stake in Hulu?

    Yeah… BTW there is a arguement against strong IP protection and how that allows companies to stiffle innovation to protect their bottom line against the common interest.

    • bthylafh
    • 7 years ago

    If Netflix ever says that I have to buy cable service, I’m canceling the service. I don’t pay the local cable co because I don’t watch TV enough for $30/month to be worthwhile, but $9 for Netflix (or whatever they charge now) is OK.

    This is pretty clearly illegal collusion and it demands a look from the DoJ.

      • Kurotetsu
      • 7 years ago

      I seriously doubt Netflix will do that. Do you remember the shitstorm that erupted when they attempted to raise prices and split off their DVD service? It shows that Netflix customers are extremely sensitive to any changes in how Netflix does business. Announcing that you now need a cable subscription to use their service won’t go over well, I’m certain.

      • superjawes
      • 7 years ago

      Don’t slam Netflix for that. I suspect this is entirely motivated by the big TV providers trying to remain relevant despite a failing business model. Instead of diversifying service and offering what people want, they’re trying to tack on charges to their new competitors.

      I’m with you. A cable TV bill is not worth it to me, but I would consider buying services piecewise in order to get what shows I want to watch (which still isn’t much).

        • bthylafh
        • 7 years ago

        I’m not slamming Netflix, I’m speculating what /might/ happen and then saying what I’ll do. It’s a common sport on the Internet. 😛

        I don’t use Hulu so I don’t care about them, and I don’t particularly care about most TV shows either, so having to wait 30 days to view the latest wouldn’t be a huge deal to me.

          • superjawes
          • 7 years ago

          Yeah, I was more just trying to defend and point out that they’re not the d-bags in this case.

      • LastQuestion
      • 7 years ago

      Same. Some TV shows are okay, but I can’t stand commercials, so I already canceled my Direct sub years ago. I’ll never sub to a tv service again. I don’t have the time to waste on commercials. If something like this happened I’d just torrent the few things that interest me and spend more time on youtube/gaming.

      Netflix/Hulu are popular because it gives consumers what they want. When you ruin that people will just go find another service that gives them what they want, which would probably involve torrenting almost all their content. It’s time these companies adapted their business models to give consumers what they want. These pitiful grabs at trying to control how we access content will just piss people off and thrown down some of the last barriers people have towards pirating content.

        • Noigel
        • 7 years ago

        Maybe Hulu needs to bite the bullet and go “paid subscription only” so as not to resort to more ridiculous things. I don’t have a problem with Netflix and giving them their $8.99.

          • superjawes
          • 7 years ago

          Hulu will never go “paid subscription only” for two reasons.

          1. They offer free content already. To take that away would take away the incentive to visit Hulu to begin with, since you can hook people in with a handful of free episodes and convince them to subscribe later.
          2. Free episodes available elsewhere. If you can watch past seasons of shows A, B, and C on their respective network sites, there is no reason for Hulu to charge people to see those. Again, they can rope people in by keeping those episodes in the same place (and not have to worry about other plugins), and get subscriptions later for people who need to catch up on other episodes on the waiting list for free viewing (think of catchup before a season finale).

          The only thing I think of that could change this would be if Hulu offered the same suite of channels and shows currently offered on cable…as in, a “true” internet television service.

            • destroy.all.monsters
            • 7 years ago

            Hulu still has ads though – even the Plus version. No one wants to watch ads – ever. It would be worth paying a nominal fee just to never have to see them.

            • UberGerbil
            • 7 years ago

            [quote<]No one wants to watch ads - ever.[/quote<]Tell that to a sizable fraction of the Superbowl audience.

        • CMF04k
        • 7 years ago

        This…

        Because there’s nothing like watching a vagisil or erectile dysfunction commercial while sitting down, and enjoying your meal. don’t wanna watch ad’s? pay us $80.00 on top of what you already pay for your cable subscription. I swear, i’d just love to walk into one of those board meetings where this bs gets decided upon with my katana, and just start slicing. No one would leave that room without something missing. Yes! ad’s piss me off that bad!

          • destroy.all.monsters
          • 7 years ago

          You know I’m sure that you could get a *lot* of donations (to support your defense attorneys) for that particular killing spree.

      • squeeb
      • 7 years ago

      I’d cancel them too. Its bullshit.

    • mcnabney
    • 7 years ago

    It isn’t the Cable Companies.

    It is the networks and channels. The Networks WANT YOU ON CABLE or DISH! Why? Because they charge the cable/Sat providers a carriage fee. For example, Time Warner cable has to pay $1 per subscriber to carry Fox. Not Fox News, the local Fox channel. The networks don’t want you using an antenna – they want you on cable so they get the monthly fee.

    This behavior is outrageous. The Federal government should strip the TV networks of their FREE broadcasting spectrum since they are looking to charge for their content. They can’t have it both ways – free reign to charge viewers (indirectly, through the cable/sat provider) and also a free handout of precious radio spectrum so that they can claim to be ‘local’.

      • demani
      • 7 years ago

      Exactly- and the irony is this: most people get access to broadcast- so they should have access automatically. And those that don’t? Well now [i<] here is an opportunity to deliver your product to someone who couldn't get it previously[/i<]. Seriously, WTF broadcasters. You get botaloads of free spectrum, and then you want to put everything behind a paywall. Give the spectrum back and do whatever you want.

      • NeelyCam
      • 7 years ago

      Oh, you guys are gonna love this: in Socialist Finland, if you own a TV, the government will impose a use fee on you to fund the national TV stations. Everybody has to pay.

        • ericfulmer
        • 7 years ago

        That seems like a standard tax, like a gasoline tax that supports highway funding or telephone service fees that support 911… somewhat less offensive than requiring a customer who is already paying for a service (broadband + Hulu Plus) to pay for it again.

        • XaiaX
        • 7 years ago

        In the UK, they call that “the BBC”.

        • destroy.all.monsters
        • 7 years ago

        I know you’re just stirring the pot but it isn’t collusion in this particular case. Nor is it vested business interests putting the average joe over a barrel.

        • Anonymous Coward
        • 7 years ago

        Same in Denmark, except perhaps even owning a computer is sufficient reason to pay the tax, because lots of content is available on the official broadcaster website for “free”. I don’t have cable, but I do use the online version.

        • Bensam123
        • 7 years ago

        This is bad?

      • StashTheVampede
      • 7 years ago

      This is collusion, plain and simple:

      1. Get enough laws passed that allow media companies to block/censor sites from a large chunk of US users.
      2. Get bandwidth limitation AND caps put in place, make sure it’s a 100% protected business practice.
      3. Ensure enough content is no longer immediately available on other legit sites (Netflix)

      The content owners now get what they want: putting legit users into choosing between online streaming (with potential cap issues) and/or paying for sat/dbs to get the same content. They figure by corralling people into a service that’s beloved (that they have a stake in), they get people to pay for the content no matter what.

      1+2+3 is already hurting the hell out of Netflix.

      • Deanjo
      • 7 years ago

      [quote<]It isn't the Cable Companies.[/quote<] Most of them are owned at least in part by the networks to begin with.

        • mcnabney
        • 7 years ago

        Yes, there is some overlap. Time Warner owns some cable channels. Comcast owns a network and some cable channels. Charter, Cox, Dish Network, and DirecTV are contentless. There is more overlap between content creators and distributors, like Disney, Viacom, and Murdock owning a network as well.

    • sweatshopking
    • 7 years ago

    this strikes me as so hilarious. then they’ll be qqing because people pirate stuff! How dumb can you be?!/

      • eofpi
      • 7 years ago

      You say that like it’s not an intentional plan to make people pirate stuff, so they can a) hit you with six-strikes violations, and b) lobby for even more ridiculous IP laws, because the existing ones clearly aren’t stopping piracy.

      After thirty years of rampant, unrelenting IP law expansion, everybody except the politicians knows piracy is (mostly) a business model problem–and even some of them are realizing it. That’s too organized to be the result of stupidity, which means we can throw Hanlon’s razor out and attribute recent IP expansion to malice.

      We can’t even attribute it to mere greed, because most of the people that Hulu Plus roped in weren’t paying for cable anyway. Netflix has a broader userbase, but a lot of their streaming-only customers are also Hulu Plus customers, and thus still weren’t paying for cable. Any ten year old can tell you that any nonzero percentage of $9/month is more than 100% of $0/month, so surely someone on the media companies’ boards can grasp that too.

      So what motive does that leave us with? Control. They want to control what content we partake, when, and how, all on the theory that it’s their absolute right as the owner of some copyrights. They think, with all that control, they can force us to pay whatever they want, as often as they want, for whatever content they deign to allow us to access. And if they were still the only game in town, that just might work. But now we’ve got Youtube, Bandcamp, a cornucopia of artists giving away their own music for free, blogs to read, forums to argue on, computer games, video games, even phone games.

      The one thing we don’t have? More time to consume content. When these other things move into our lives, something has to give. I bet, for most people here, and probably most people in any industrial or postindustrial country, the things that gave were music, TV, and movies. If the media companies keep pushing, they’ll find themselves extinct, not due to piracy, but because all their customers just quit using their products due to inconvenience.

    • Meadows
    • 7 years ago

    Cable companies are [b<]pathetic[/b<]. This is nothing more than artificial paperwork, and I hope the streaming services will sign none of it. This is exactly the same as subsidising and supporting printed newspapers against all odds, as online news continue taking over.

      • just brew it!
      • 7 years ago

      Unfortunately, Comcast has a lot of leverage now that they own NBC/Universal [u<]and[/u<] control the bit pipe into a large percentage of homes. They can rescind streaming rights for NBC/Universal content, or throttle bandwidth for any service that refuses to play by their rules. If you were an operation like Hulu, what would [u<]you[/u<] do?

        • BobbinThreadbare
        • 7 years ago

        Sue?

          • tay
          • 7 years ago

          No. Comcast owns 1/3 of Hulu by owning 51% of NBC-Universal. Does this make more sense now?

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 7 years ago

            I see. So it’s time for an AT&T style monopoly busting.

            • khands
            • 7 years ago

            Been that way for years in the home ISP market 🙁

            • Anonymous Coward
            • 7 years ago

            But that would be socialist! Corporations can do no wrong.

            • Sahrin
            • 7 years ago

            Well, strictly speaking they ‘control’ 1/3 of Hulu by owning 51% of NBCU, they don’t “own” 1/3. It’s actually 32% not 1/3.

        • dpaus
        • 7 years ago

        Hulu is 32% owned by NBC-Universal. I’d say “Please, sir, hit me again, sir!”

      • ALiLPinkMonster
      • 7 years ago

      But… without newspaper, what will I use to dry off screens at work after burning them? What will protect the corners of my house from ferret poo? What will I wrap gifts in for people who I don’t really care about? Newspaper has many purposes besides keeping grandpa busy with the crossword puzzles. Cable, on the other hand, is pure evil.

      • dpaus
      • 7 years ago

      [quote<]I hope the streaming services will sign none of it[/quote<] Hmmmm, Hulu's owners are: [list<] [*<]NBC-Universal - 32% [/*<][*<]Fox Entertainment - 31% [/*<][*<]Disney-ABC - 27%[/*<] [/list<] Yeah, I'll bet the the CEO tells [b<]them[/b<] where to shove it! And [url=http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120430/09032418715/hulu-puts-gun-to-own-head-may-require-users-to-show-proof-pay-tv-subscription.shtml<]according to TechDirt[/url<], it's only Hulu who's talking about this; they make no mention of Netfilx.

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