Were you planning on cutting the cord on your cable as soon as Hulu signed a few more content deals and let you watch your favorite shows the day after they aired? Think again. The New York Post reports that Fox is renegotiating its deal with Comcast in a way that would require Hulu to require users to prove that they already subscribe to cable in order to get access to its content. The authentication system would likely work the same way: users would log in to Hulu with their cable company logins, rather than with a Hulu ID. Fox is already somewhat more restrictive about its content than the other major networks (with the exception of CBS, which puts almost none of its content on Hulu and declines to stream many episodes at all). Currently, you have to have Hulu Plus to stream Fox shows the day after they air. Otherwise, you have to wait a full week to watch the shows supported only by ads.
It makes sense that now is the time Fox would strike. Hulu (and Netflix as well) are early in their efforts to create original content. And while those companies say publicly that their original shows are meeting their expectations, they haven’t been precisely clear about what those expectations were, or whether that means they’re even close to garnering network-level (or even cable-style) audiences for that programming. They’re nowhere near close to telling the television networks to shove it, so Fox is striking in what it sees as one of a few remaining moments of opportunity, especially because it wants to make sure it can retain the cash to pay its retransmission fees. The cable companies need to hang on to their subscribers both to ensure their own profits, and to meet their own outside demands. Until retransmission fees are out of the equation, it’s hard to imagine that this model is going to change dramatically.