No Hulu Plus for Your Cable DVR

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Hulu Plus is slated to come to TiVo’s Premiere DVR soon — but don’t expect it to show up on any TiVo devices supplied by cable companies like Suddenlink, Cox or RCN. Rights holders are resisting subscription-based streaming content being placed next to cable-powered VOD offerings, and they’re preventing services like Hulu Plus and Netflix on any device provided to you by your pay TV operator through licensing clauses.

The issue became apparent for the first time last week when Suddenlink said that it would love to offer its customers Netflix access on its Premiere DVRs, but can’t because Netflix isn’t able to deliver its subscription service to DVRs leased by cable companies. Netflix at the time confirmed that its contracts simply don’t allow this, and now Hulu is saying that it is bound to the same restrictions: “Currently, Hulu Plus will not be available on MVPD-provided TiVo Premiere DVRs,” we were told by a company spokesperson.

This type of blackout for online subscription services is frustrating for consumers who expect TiVo’s supplied by their cable company to offer the same type of service a TiVo sold through retail channels would get them. Suddenlink, which rolled out TiVo availability in four Texas communities this month, charges end users $15 per month to lease a Premiere DVR. That’s only $5 less than the no-money-down promotional offer recently introduced by TiVo.

However, the real loser could be TiVo itself: The company has been banking on alliances with cable companies to make up for its ever-declining consumer subscriber base. Its access to extra content has been one of the selling points. In fact, the company boasts on its website that it “brings the operator content, navigation, and branding options that they can’t get elsewhere,” with one of those content options mentioned being Netflix. Cable operators are unlikely to invest a lot of money into rolling out Premiere DVRs if those boxes offer little more than the generic devices they’ve been shipping to customers for years.

A TiVo spokesperson didn’t provide any further details when contacted for this story, and instead said that it was “important to remember that TiVo offers a millions of pieces of broadband delivered content from providers beyond just Netflix, as well as integrated cable video on demand.”

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