Monday, May 23, 2011

TiVo Will Stream Hulu Plus Content on Set-Top Boxes

Hulu Plus will stream its large TV content through TiVo's set-top boxes. The Hulu Plus on TiVo Premier service is offering six months of free service to current customers who buy a new TiVo Premier DVR. The deal moves TiVo closer to becoming a one-box solution, and Hulu Plus joins other offerings, including Netflix, YouTube and Blockbuster.

The streaming-TV market is heating up. After so much talk about a battle between YouTube and Netflix, Hulu and TiVo are making news this week with a new partnership.

TiVo, the digital video Relevant Products/Services recording company, just announced deal to stream Hulu Plus content on its set-top box. TiVo subscribers who use Premier boxes can now also stream Hulu to their TV.

Dubbed Hulu Plus on TiVo Premier, Hulu Plus is offering six months of free service Relevant Products/Services to current customers who purchase a new TiVo Premier DVR. Customers who already have the boxes can get a shorter free trial. Financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

"Hulu Plus on TiVo Premier is something I expected to see happen because it enhances the value of the TV unit and it gives Hulu a bigger audience," said Phil Leigh, a senior analyst at Inside Digital Media. "Hulu is probably the more interested partner in this situation, and my guess is that TiVo gets a share Relevant Products/Services of whatever subscription revenue Hulu draws."

Late-Coming Hulu

The Hulu Plus deal moves TiVo another step toward its vision to become the one-box solution for the living room. Indeed, Hulu Plus isn't alone on the TiVo Premier system. Some of its competitors are already on board, so it seems Hulu is playing catch-up.

Specifically, Hulu Plus joins Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Instant Video, and Blockbuster on the platform. TiVo Premier subscribers can tap into content from these providers as well as shows like Comedy Central, MTV, The Colbert Report, and others with a single user interface and a remote control. Users can search Hulu Plus by title or by the site's network Relevant Products/Services listings and genres.

"This is good for both parties, but it's not a major development because Hulu's numbers are only in the low millions -- not tens of millions," Leigh said. "This does kind of indicate what the content industry would like to do, which is to get content distributed in Internet-like devices in a way that generates incremental revenue."

Competing for Eyeballs

Digital-content distributors have come a long way. Market research firm Interpret revealed that the number of people who said they streamed a TV program increased to 41 percent in the fourth quarter. The number of TV programs streamed per respondent reached nearly nine episodes in the last three months of 2010, up 37 percent from 6.41 in 2009.

Hulu Plus is part of that equation and hopes to become a larger part with the TiVo deal. What Hulu Plus offers that Amazon and YouTube don't is re a larger catalog of TV shows. In fact, Hulu Plus offers one of the largest catalogs of television content on a streaming platform to subscribers in the U.S. Netflix and YouTube, meanwhile, are duking it out on the movie front. Amazon Instant Video covers all the bases.

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