One of the iPhone apps we’re craving the most is still missing in action: An app from Hulu, the Web video company owned by NBC, Fox, and Disney. It’s one of the things that readers ask us about the most, so we thought we’d revisit it.
But now it’s November, and the app still hasn’t been released. So where is it? Short story is, we don’t know.
We asked our source.
“Great question,” the person responded, adding: “It was a great app a while ago. Imagine how good it will be by the time they launch version three as their first.”
That’s nice. But it doesn’t help.
What could be causing the holdup?
The best explanation we’ve seen so far is from streaming media analyst Dan Rayburn, who reported in October that Hulu was waiting to launch its subscription service before launching its app — which is already “ready to go.”
Hulu is widely reported to be working on a premium subscription service, as it seeks to generate revenue from sources beyond advertising. Our assumption is that it might include access to shows earlier or later than the free service offers them, the ability to skip ads, access to additional shows that are not included in the free version, such as older seasons, or potentially access to shows in different formats — such as streaming to your iPhone.
But as far as timing for a premium service goes… who knows. Last month, News Corp. COO Chase Carey suggested “there is still no timeline,” but supposes it’s at least in 2010, Broadcasting & Cable reported.
This could be further complicated by the fact that Comcast is in talks to acquire a stake in NBC, one of Hulu’s owners. Comcast is working hard on its own Web video platform for cable subscribers, which could potentially delay the launch of anything premium that Hulu itself is working on.
Meanwhile, a few things have happened since April that make it seem more likely that a Hulu app could see the light of day:
- More video apps have launched on the iPhone, taking advantage of new streaming video protocols from Apple, even working over 3G connections. The best example is Major League Baseball’s At Bat app, which offered live baseball games during the second half of the season and the playoffs.
- Apple recently began allowing free apps to accept in-app payments. This means that Hulu could potentially use Apple’s in-app purchasing system to handle payments for premium subscriptions, premium pay-per-view, or other models.
A Hulu rep declined to comment.