Cord-cutting has gotten a lot of press, but the total number of people canceling their cable subscriptions remains relatively small -- and the executives at Hulu apparently want to keep it that way. The company, owned by News Corp, NBC and Disney, intends to start blocking access to a host of shows for users who don't subscribe to cable TV, the New York Postreports.
The news report -- as yet unconfirmed by Hulu -- has left some consumer advocates fuming. The group Free Press questions whether Comcast is violating the terms of its merger with NBCUniversal -- one of which was that Comcast would give up NBC's ability to manage Hulu.
"This move to tie Hulu to cable TV service merits close scrutiny from the government agencies that approved the anti-competitive Comcast-NBCU pact in the first place," Free Press policy director Matt Wood said in a statement. "While Hulu should be able to make money on its service, imitating cable's walled-garden model would actually deprive access to millions of willing purchasers."
Public Knowledge president and CEO Gigi Sohn said the move would spur consumers to seek out pirated versions of TV shows. She also criticized the Federal Communications Commission for failing to impose a merger condition prohibiting Hulu from blocking people who don't subscribe to cable.
Of course, at this point the details remain vague. Hulu hasn't yet made any public statement, and the Post said in its story that the move could take years to complete.
Whether the move will discourage cord-cutters remains uncertain -- especially because a lot could happen to change the way video is distributed online in the next few years. Already startups like Aereo are offering cord-cutters new options for TV viewing. Assuming it doesn't get shut down by the courts, Aereo's $12-per-month model -- which allows users to stream the shows available on over-the-air TV to their computers, iPhones and iPads -- could become a lot more attractive to people who find themselves shut out of services like Hulu.