Netflix (s NFLX) has long dominated the consumer electronics market with its $9-a-month subscription service, which gives users instant access to more than 20,000 titles of movie and TV content. But it could get some serious competition, as Hulu’s plans for a subscription online TV service will be made across many of the same CE platforms that have helped drive adoption of Netflix’s Watch Instantly service.
The Hulu subscription service will offer a wider range of content than is available on its website for $9.99 a month. And unlike its free service, which can only be accessed through the Hulu website, Hulu Plus will be available on multiple CE devices at launch, including the iPhone (s aapl), iPad and Samsung HDTVs and Blu-ray players. Support for Hulu Plus will expand even further as time goes on, with plans for the service to become available on Sony (s SNE) and Vizio TVs and Blu-ray players by the end of the year, as well as the Microsoft (s MSFT) Xbox 360 and Sony (s SNE) PlayStation3 gaming consoles.
With the exception of the iPhone, for which Netflix plans to release an app later this year, the DVD rental firm is on all the same devices, which will put it head-to-head against Hulu’s subscription service. As a result, Netflix will have its first real competition from another premium content subscription service.
Unlike Hulu, which seems poised to launch its subscription service on multiple CE platforms all at once, it took some time for Netflix to secure its lead in CE devices. But it has quickly ramped up its availability after launching on the Xbox Live service in 2008. By the end of the year, Netflix plans to be on more than 100 different CE devices. In addition to the game consoles and CE products from Samsung, Sony and Vizio, Netflix’s streaming service is also available on broadband set-top boxes from Roku, TiVo (s TIVO) DVRs, LG TVs and Blu-ray players and the Nintendo Wii game system.
Being on so many connected devices has helped to both raise awareness of Netflix streaming and drive subscriptions over the past few years, with 14 million subscribers by the end of the first quarter, up 35 percent from 10.3 million a year earlier. The company expects that growth to continue, forecasting 17 million subscribers by the end of the year.
But having Hulu’s $9.99 offering available on multiple devices could cut into Netflix subscriber growth. With more recent TV shows and episodes on Hulu Plus than is typically available through the Netflix catalog of content, the DVD rental firm might find its existing users jumping ship — or possible new subscribers signing up for Hulu Plus instead.
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