Hulu today announced that the company is ending the free, ad-supported tier of its streaming service and focusing on an all-subscription model that will more closely align it to rivals Netflix and Amazon Prime (via Variety). Hulu's free service -- which let users watch the most recent episodes of shows after they aired live on TV -- will still continue, but is being transitioned to a new platform called "Yahoo View," thanks to a distribution partnership between Hulu and Yahoo.
In the free-to-use site Yahoo View, users will be able to watch the five most-recent episodes of shows from networks like ABC, Fox, and NBC, but will now have to wait eight days after they originally air. Yahoo View will also provide clips previewing upcoming episodes and entire seasons of anime and Korean drama series. Users can expect Hulu's free service to be phased out "over the next few weeks."
Hulu senior vice president Ben Smith said that the main reason behind the move was that the company's free service "became very limited and no longer aligned with the Hulu experience or content strategy." With the elimination of the ad-supported tier, users will have just two options to watch Hulu: its basic $7.99 per month service with commercials, or a higher-tier $11.99 per month option without commercials.
“For the past couple years, we’ve been focused on building a subscription service that provides the deepest, most personalized content experience possible to our viewers,” Hulu senior VP and head of experience Ben Smith said in a statement. “As we have continued to enhance that offering with new originals, exclusive acquisitions, and movies, the free service became very limited and no longer aligned with the Hulu experience or content strategy.”
For now, Yahoo View is available only on the web, but the company said that mobile apps will be coming soon, although no release window was given. Since Yahoo shuttered its digital online video service, Yahoo Screen, earlier in the year, the acquisition of Hulu's former free content is expected to help bolster Yahoo's standing as a contender in the ever-expanding online streaming competition.
For Hulu, the move comes just under a week after Time Warner bought a 10 percent stake in the company to join Disney, 21st Century Fox and Comcast/NBC Universal as shareholders. Looking forward, Hulu is also prepping a live TV streaming service for sometime in 2017, which would add another subscription tier onto its streaming options with a service that focuses on quality over quantity, since the company "isn’t looking to offer all the hundreds of channels found in the traditional cable bundle."