Hulu, the US online streaming service co-owned by Time Warner, Disney, 21st Century Fox and NBCUniversal, is dropping all free TV content that it was initially known for as it works on an online television service to rival cable TV.
Free TV episodes – typically the most recent four or five episodes from a show’s current season – will be gone from the site within a few weeks. Instead, Hulu is making free episodes available through Yahoo.
While Hulu started as a free site, supported by advertising, free video has become increasingly more difficult to find as Hulu tries to lure viewers into a subscription – $8 a month for a plan with ads, and $12 without.
Users of Hulu’s free on-demand videos will soon be able to find them by visiting the new Yahoo View site. Yahoo says it will have the past five episodes of ABC, NBC and Fox shows available (but not CW which has a deal with Netflix).
The episodes on Yahoo are not currently available on a portable devices, but Yahoo is working on a mobile web version and an app. Yahoo says the mobile version will be free, but it may not have all the same video as the desktop computer site because of content licensing restrictions.
Hulu says relatively few people watch the free videos. It now has about 12 million subscribers who pay for original shows, the entire current seasons of some network shows and access to Hulu’s library on mobile and streaming-TV devices like Roku.
Hulu also plans to launch a live online TV service next year. It would show broadcast and cable channels in real time, without making viewers wait until the next day for episodes.