Hulu and the iPad would seem like a software and hardware combo born in media heaven, but we hadn’t heard a peep from Hulu officially on the matter. But now Hulu’s kind of confirmed its iPad plans. The trick is, you may have to pay.
The news isn’t absolutely concrete, but AllThingsD has heard directly from several insiders inside Hulu’s parent companies: Simply put, Hulu would love to serve up its Web video content to iPad users. The iPad is expected to be a soaring success, and it’s a device that’s expressly designed for high-quality media consumption in a portable package. With a mobile Hulu solution in front of millions of new iPad users, the company could make a lot of money from embedded advertising.
Those same insiders have suggested that for the iPad Hulu may abandon the free-to-view business model it’s followed so far for the desktop and adopt a subscription-based system instead. The iPad-Hulu income would offset money “lost” in keeping the desktop implementation free and may even turn a profit if it proves very successful–while putting Hulu on all three screens in our modern lives: The TV, the PC and our mobile media devices.
The most obvious barrier is that the current Hulu system centers on Adobe Flash-powered video, and this is not going to be supported on the iPad. There are work-arounds like HTML5 or even the pop-out player system that the official YouTube iPhone app uses, but they’d require some serious back-end engineering at Hulu to get them to work–like re-encoding all of Hulu’s video archive. Hulu also has to ask its content providers to grant it access to transmit to a mobile device–not an issue for the already Apple-friendly Disney, but it could be for others. Or they may demand a slice of the profits, which is where the payment model for the mobile Hulu app would come into play.
We did know that Hulu was likely to charge for its services at some point, and that Hulu and the iPad would get together sometime. But with all the complex rights negotiations and coding for the videos themselves needed, Hulu is not likely to be on the iPad at launch. One thing’s for sure–just as we pointed out, this news is a clear sign that owning the iPad is ultimately going to cost you many extra dollars in the long run…but you’ll probably enjoy spending it.