Would Hulu Plus Cable Equal A La Carte Channels?

Hulu and cable companies are reportedly talking about deals. Congress is looking at a la carte channels, too.

By Nathan Byrne | November 13, 2013

Here's a strategy for online video companies trying to take on cable: If you can't beat them, get into their bundles. While you're at it, ask for access to all the same content they get to use.

Talks are reportedly on between Hulu and pay-TV providers to somehow work together and combine their services. Picture the possibility of Hulu powering a cable company's on-demand offering.

The Wall Street Journal first reported on those talks — suggesting possibilities like set-top-box access to Hulu. Or Hulu Plus as a part of a paid-cable bundle.

The Journal reports AT&T, Comcast, Cox, Time Warner and Verizon are all listening to Hulu. That's quite an audience — when you're looking to grow your audience. Meanwhile, a separate development could factor into the future chance of a la carte channel subscriptions.

A writer for Quartz thinks Washington might have a better shot at getting cable's attention than your average customer complaint. Sen. Jay Rockefeller is proposing the Consumer Choice in Online Video Act.

The West Virginia Democrat said his bill "aims to enable the ultimate a la carte—to give consumers the ability to watch the programming they want to watch, when they want to watch it, how they want to watch it, and pay only for what they actually watch." (Via Flickr / SenRockefeller)

Rockefeller chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, so he's got some pull. And he'll likely have the ear of many with this bill. (Via Flickr / SenRockefeller)

Sen. John McCain didn't have as much luck back in May when he proposed a bundle-busting bill aimed at protecting cable consumers. (Via Flickr / Jim Greenhill)

But the Los Angeles Times says Rockefeller's bill faces long odds. "With Rockefeller set to retire after 2014 and no Republicans on board to co-sponsor the bill ... the cable and satellite industries also will lobby hard to make sure no legislation gives [online video] services special treatment."

Still, shifting attention to the discussion could change major broadcast issues such as the way retransmission fees are handled between broadcasters and cable operators. It could also impact the future of services such as Aereo,which offers low-cost, no-cable access to live TV and DVR. Thus far, Aereo has ruffled the feathers of network execs. But one media entrepreneur tells Bloomberg: Too bad. (Via Mediabistro)

SCOTT KURNIT: "The reality is, Aereo is legal, but it is so wildly disruptive to the television business it's got everybody freaking out. Enough said."

BLOOMBERG HOST: "Not enough said. Come on, Scott. You brought it up."

SCOTT KURNIT: "It's clearly legal." 

Rockefeller introduced his bill Tuesday. There's no reported timetable on the rumored Hulu deals with cable companies.

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