Hulu to pursue pay subscription model

It was only a matter of time. After a free debut that disappointed its owners, Hulu announced last week that it is becoming a high-definition pay subscription service for $10 a month. With news of the pay service, there were several unconfirmed news reports that CBS may begin providing Hulu its programming with the start of the new TV season in September.

Hulu will continue to distribute free content from the major networks, but will use Hulu Plus to stream entire current seasons of shows like “Glee,” “Modern Family,” “The Office” and “30 Rock” as well as the entire back library of many other shows, such as “Arrested Development,” “The X-Files” and “Heroes.”

The new Hulu Plus will launch immediately as an invite-only beta test via invitations to existing users. Others can also request an invitation via the company’s website.

Owners of Macintosh and Windows PCs, as well as via Wi-Fi or 3G on the Apple iPad, iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4 or third-generation iPod Touch can use the new service. Subscribers with Samsung Internet-connected TVs and Blu-ray players can also access the service. A Hulu Plus application can be downloaded from the Samsung app store.

Eventually, the premium service will be available on the PlayStation 3 and on the Xbox 360 in “early 2011.” Vizio and Sony TVs and Blu-ray players will also be supported.

Hulu Plus could offer a major change to the television viewing landscape. It offers viewing “anywhere, anytime” on a range of mobile devices. It offers one more opportunity for cable viewers to cut the wire and is a challenge to the cable industry’s “TV Everywhere” initiative.

Two technology vendors, Clearleap and thePlatform, have both completed recent deals to enable the delivery of cable programming to connected devices like Roku’s $80 set-top box, providing additional ways for consumers to receive television programming.