For a while, it seemed like the streaming wars would be fought with content. Streaming providers have been investing massive amounts of money in new original content, trying to outdo each other with the next big hit. Now, Hulu has changed the rules of the game by starting a price war. The growing green streaming service responded to Netflix’s latest price hikes by choosing to lower the price of its subscriptions. Is Hulu trolling Netflix?
Possibly. After all, over a quarter of Netflix’s subscribers said they would cancel their subscriptions in response to the price hikes and would prefer a cheaper ad-supported version if it was made available. Hulu executives must have read that survey, too, because this week they announced a new set of pricing options. Hulu’s basic on-demand service now costs just $5.99 a month – with ads. Hulu without ads costs $11.99 a month.
However, it’s not all good news for Hulu prices. The new Hulu with Live TV service is actually going up in price from $39.99/month to $44.99/month. Hulu says the price hike for its live TV subscription was prompted by an increased channel selection which now includes The CW, Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, and ABC News. For some households, $44.99/month comes close to the cost of a cable subscription, but the addition of Hulu’s massive library of award-winning on-demand content is a big plus.
As streaming services struggle to find new ways of staying profitable now that the market has gotten ridiculously crowded, it seems that ad-supported streaming services are inevitable. Will the days of ad-free video soon come to an end? As always, I’m left to ask: what will then make streaming any different from cable? Are all of these changes signalling that streaming will come full circle and become merely cable over the internet?