The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are two of the most popular shows available at Hulu, and have even come to represent the possibilities of the service—personally speaking, I hit up Hulu most mornings specifically to catch those two shows, since I've long since abandoned cable TV. But today negotiations broke down between Hulu and Viacom, the owners of Comedy Central, and Viacom will be removing all Comedy Central content currently on Hulu—including the one-two news comedy punch. This is a major blow to Hulu.
It looks like the popularity of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report may actually have contributed to the removal; Viacom was unsatisfied with the revenue generated from those two shows in spite of their immense viewerships. Rumor has it that Viacom wanted significantly more money to host the two shows, possibly even including payment up front (which would be a first for Hulu). One other possibility: Hulu is owned in part by ABC, NBC, and Fox—but not Viacom, which may mean that Viacom feels less obligation to see the service succeed. In any case, Hulu was unable to match whatever demand Viacom presented, and Viacom opted to just yank its content.
This is a serious problem for Hulu. Two of its most popular shows removed because it couldn't show enough profit? That doesn't spell much confidence for the third-party streaming site, which has sat in the red since its unveiling. Hulu's response, in the form of a blog post, is more sad yet hopeful than upset, voicing "confidence" that a future relationship between itself and Viacom isn't out of the question. If Hulu does move to a pay model, as has been rumored, the company might be able to pay Viacom enough to re-secure the shows.
For its part, Viacom merely stated that Hulu was one of many online partners the media giant has worked with, and that full-length episodes will continue to be available at TheDailyShow.com and ColbertNation.com. But for viewers, like me, who are used to Hulu's elegant interface, top-of-its-class media streamer, and short commercial breaks, the transition to Viacom's somewhat clunky version is unwanted.
The Daily Show and The Colbert Report will be entirely removed at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time on Tuesday, March 9th—so get it in while you can.