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At long, long, long last, popular TV-streaming site Hulu could soon expand from computers to TVs, set-top boxes, and a host of other digital devices.
According to a report Tuesday, unnamed sources told Reuters that the site will shortly begin charging a subscription fee for expanded access to older content, and offer its previously cloistered service on devices other than computers. The story cited Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT ) Xbox 360 and Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPad as just two of the participating gizmos. Hulu would reportedly still offer its current service free of charge.
I can't fully trust anonymous sources, but the prospect of Hulu on my HDTV still makes me hopeful. I suspect it also fills Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA ) , Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) , Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC ) , and other cable or fiber providers with dread.
I hate my cable company. I hate paying an arm and a leg for the handful of channels I do watch, and a whole avalanche I never bother with. I hate paying even more for a wheezing, glitchy, generic DVR. I hate waiting in vain for my provider to expand its meager assortment of HD channels, most of which are frankly terrible. (Seriously, have you seen what passes for programming on TLC these days? There are some things man was not meant to learn.) And since my building's not wired for fiber-optic service, and satellite TV comes with its own set of problems, I hate the absence of a viable alternative.
However, I love streaming movies and TV shows from Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX ) via my Blu-ray player. It's fast, cheap, and convenient. I won't mind waiting a day after broadcast -- or even a week or more, for certain cable shows -- if Hulu can offer my favorite TV series just as easily. If it can serve them up in glorious high definition, I'll even pay extra.
Freeing Hulu and other services from the confines of computers could help many frustrated customers like me to cut the cord on cable TV, for keeps. That might be bad news for cable, but it's great news for content providers, gadget makers, and more importantly, viewers.