Hulu is taking the first steps toward an authentication model they announced last year. This means that only cable subscribers will be able to subscribe to Hulu Plus and will have to enter their cable or satellite account numbers in order to take advantage of Hulu's services. Fox's streaming service TV Everywhere is also making the move toward authentication, although both shifts will take a couple of years to be in effect.
Hulu's stock has already dropped some with the announcement, as they're sure to lose a bundle of business from people who pay for Hulu Plus so they wouldn't have to keep cable. And while I understand that the gradual move is an effort to help cable companies who are losing business like crazy, I can't help but feel disappointed at this shift. I think it's time we start to move away from the cable model. Not only is it financially wasteful - how many channels do you pay for that you never watch? - but it's also tied to the Nielsen standard that is so inaccurate. I'd think that streaming services would offer a far more meticulous method of discerning ratings for shows. In particular shows that don't do well in their timeslots - because it's a Friday night, or the show is opposite a ratings juggernaut, or the audience is mostly streaming-friendly youths like myself - wouldn't be canceled so quickly if advertisers and networks paid more attention to streaming numbers.
I understand that the move from cable to an entirely streaming world is impractical at this point and that there are plenty of factors I'm not taking into account because I am not a television executive. I know that many people don't have access to streaming and can't afford the high-speed Internet and streaming devices required to use it. And I get that a new system for advertising, ratings etc. has to be in place in order to make this work. But I always assumed that with Hulu Plus,TV Everywhere, Netflix, Amazon Instant Watch, Vudu and the dozens of network-specific streaming services available (such as Adult Swim's or HBO Go), that we were gradually, over the course of several years, moving away from the cable model. And that's how it should be!
I don't mean we should all be able to watch whatever we want, whenever we want, for free. I pay for Hulu Plus, I pay for Amazon Instant Watch, I pay for all of the streaming services I use. I'd be willing to pay for others as long as I know that I will actually watch them. But when I had cable, just normal old cable, I never watched it. Food and Game Show Networks aside, it was a waste of my money. Now I only pay for what I watch, and I can watch it at my convenience. I've always preferred the pay as you watch method of HBO. You don't watch HBO? Don't order it. If you're paying for it, it's because you want it.
If Hulu Plus makes the move toward the authentication model, I will simply not use it anymore. I'll wait for the cable shows I watch on Hulu - like Parks and Recreation - to become available on DVD or streaming. All AMC shows are available for pay on Amazon Instant Watch, and that's how I will continue to enjoy them. I pay $1.99 an episode and when I'm finished, the episodes are on my computer, TV and Kindle Fire forever! A cable subscription system is outdated and inefficient. As I said, I understand that it's not yet time for us to get rid of the system entirely, but it's ridiculous that we're moving backward instead of forward.