Sources Say Hulu Waiting For Subscription Service Before Launching iPhone App
Last week, multiple sources familiar with Hulu's video plans told me that Hulu already has an iPhone app ready to go, but won't launch it until Hulu rolls out a subscription based service. While Hulu has hinted at such a service in the future, the company is still downplaying it as though it won't come anytime soon. That said, Hulu did say from day one that they will look at a combination of free and paid content offerings for their business, so the idea of a subscription service is not a new one. It's only a matter of when, not if.
While the iPhone does not support Flash video today, one of the sources I spoke with said Hulu has already converted some of their content over to H.264 for playback on the iPhone. However, they didn't know how much of Hulu's content had been converted and for all we know, the content that was converted could have been just for testing purposes. While Hulu is usually quick to downplay anything they might be working on, they do have an entire team working on new projects and offerings and have a section on their website called Hulu Labs.
Even if these sources are accurate, there's still a lot of hurdles Hulu has to get through to make an iPhone app a reality. For starters, it has to be approved by Apple which could see Hulu as a threat to iTunes. While I don't think they would and could probably use Hulu's iPhone app to push sales of download to own content, with Apple, you never know. The other big hurdle is whether or not AT&T would allow Hulu streaming to the iPhone over 3G. Considering they won't allow services like Sling over 3G, it's possible that Hulu also only gets streaming over WiFi. But if Hulu was able to do some sort of revenue sharing deal with AT&T, one could argue they may allow it.
No one knows for sure when a subscription based service or iPhone app by Hulu will come to the market, but clearly Hulu is pretty far along with their plans for both. How much would you pay a month for a subscription to Hulu if the offering was better quality video to the PC, ideally HD, and the ability to get videos to the iPhone?