One of the bigger gripes among cable customers these days — aside from horrible customer service and wallet-emptying bills — is the inconvenience of having to switch back and forth from cable to whatever device they use to access the streaming services to which they also subscribe.
Cable provider Optimum took care of that complaint Thursday morning. The company is now offering access to Hulu through a channel on the guide (605, for those who are curious), meaning if you have Optimum and can’t find something to watch on the 200-plus channels they offer, you can simply surf over to Hulu.
You still have to be a Hulu subscriber ($7.99/month for limited commercials, $11.99 for the ad-free version) to get the full Hulu experience through Optimum, though.
“We are thrilled that Optimum customers can now access Hulu’s content library without having to leave their cable TV environment,” said Tim Connolly, Hulu’s SVP of distribution and strategic partnerships, in a statement.
Optimum was also the first provider to allow its broadband customers to sign up for the standalone streaming service HBO Now.
The perceived wall between streaming services (like Hulu and Netflix) and pay TV providers has been coming down brick by brick over the last year or so. The latest iteration of Dish’s Hopper set-top box includes not only the ability to access Netflix right from the box, but also integrates results from the streaming service in searches. Comcast’s X1 system, too, allows customers to avoid the hassle of switching to a Roku player or Apple TV for Netflix. The future of “over-the-top,” somewhat ironically, might just be “into-the-top.”
Much of the reluctance on the part of pay TV providers to hop in bed with streamers stems from fears of audience cannibalization on the part of programmers, who still hold a large sway, along with a few technical hurdles. (To integrate Hulu into its channel lineup, Optimum’s parent company, Cablevision, had to enlist the services of cloud TV provider ActiveVideo.) And some companies are more willing to play ball than others — satellite provider DirecTV is still holding out on the Netflix access front.
Optimum has a smaller customer base than a giant like Comcast or Dish, with around 2.6 million video subscribers at the end of 2015. That gives it a little more freedom to experiment, to embrace a future that relies more on broadband than coax. Your move, Big Cable.