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Hulu Subscription-Service Rumors Heat Up

Speculation on a new business model for Hulu, the online video joint venture of NBC Universal, News Corp. and The Walt Disney Co., continued June 25 with reports that it may launch a long-anticipated subscription service that would provide on-demand access to current and past-season shows from NBC, ABC and Fox.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the service might launch as soon as next week and would cost around $10 a month. It also might provide access to the content on devices other than a laptop or PC, such as Apple's iPad; a separate story by Bloomberg suggested the service would launch on Sony's Playstation game console.

Hulu, which to date has derived revenues from advertising, has not formally commented on its plans.

A move by Hulu to bring its content to other IP-connected devices than computers would be significant. Hulu has kept its content off connected devices, like broadband-capable TVs, to protect the existing broadcast TV businesses of its partners. Cable programmers, who are also reportedly in discussions to provide content to the new Hulu subscription service, have taken a similar tack with their "TV Everywhere" initiative, which lets paying cable-TV subscribers watch shows on-demand on their computer or laptop, but not on a connected TV.

But that stance may be changing, with ESPN due to launch a service this fall that will provide access to its broadband network ESPN3 through Microsoft Xbox game consoles, and some key cable technology vendors announcing plans to support content delivery to connected devices.