Hulu Makes Some Content Available for Free on Mobile (Should Do This with Originals)

/ Oct 23, 2013


Hulu just made an interesting mobile update to its platform. The video company’s mobile website now offers a collection of popular, hand-selected video clips for free.

Until today, if you wanted to watch Hulu content on a mobile device, you needed to sign up and pay for a Hulu Plus account — one of the many ways Hulu’s traditional media owners have fought to protect and make additional revenue off of their content. Now, Hulu’s mobile site will offer a curated block of “TV’s best moments,” as determined by the Hulu editorial team, according to a blog post by Hulu senior product manager Karen Nischol.

These will be short-form video clips of popular moments from TV shows, similar to the Trending Now section on Hulu’s site right now. In fact, the mobile site will immediately open up to the Trending Now page, though users will also have the ability to access content by five broad genres: Trailers, Comedy, News, Celebrity, and Latino.

So why the update for Hulu, which has notoriously stodgy about where it makes its content available? One — clearly — is to take advantage of the rise in mobile consumption. Not everyone wants to pay for Hulu — the company reported in April that it has over 4 million paying subscribers, with close to 30 million visiting the free version of the site on the web. That’s a lot of people who weren’t able to watch Hulu stuff on their mobile devices. And if 40% of YouTube’s views are coming from mobile, then I imagine Hulu has the chance to bring in similar numbers for its mobile content, especially since the content it’s making available is mobile friendly (short, trending, and shareable).

The other, obviously, is to convince more people to pay for Hulu Plus. The clips on the mobile site will be accompanied with a link to sign up for the subscription service, which offers full episodes of current and past-season programming.

This has been a long time coming, if anything else.

But what would make this decision even more interesting is if Hulu decides to make its originals available for free on the mobile site. Former Hulu CEO Andy Forssell recently said originals currently account for 5% of total viewing on Hulu. That number would certainly rise if that content was available for free on other platforms as well. And it’s not like Hulu would run into issues with its TV content partners, I can’t imagine they would care who has access to Hulu’s original programming.

It almost makes too much sense, then again, it’s all dependent on how important original programming is for Hulu and its new CEO Mike Hopkins going forward.

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