The end of TV, as we know it

Now that Hulu has vastly expanded its service beyond computers — to iPhone, iPad and other devices — and widened its content, does that portend bad omens for Netflix on demand? That’s a question that has digital-media analysts’ tongues wagging, so to speak. Though at least one analyst downgraded Netflix stock on the news, others contend increased interest in TV content online should pave the way for more demand on Netflix, too. “It shouldn’t have much impact short-term, because Hulu is mainly a TV hub, while Netflix streaming is mainly for movies,” says Josh Bell, new-media analyst at market researcher Interpret. “It’s possible that even longer term, the two may be seen as complements to each other, rather than competitors.”

Gartner analyst Mike McGuire goes even further: “Hulu has movies, but it’s nowhere close to Netflix. It will be interesting to see if people pay for Hulu’s premium service, which runs ads with the TV shows. Plus, Netflix has streaming on computers, iPad and game players.” An iPhone app is in the works.

On Tuesday, online video site Hulu launched a paid-subscription service. For $9.99 a month, users of Hulu Plus can get episodes of Glee, The Office and other popular TV shows. And the service is available — for the first time (by invitation only for now) — on Apple’s iPhone and iPad, and some Samsung Blue-ray players and TVs through new applications. On deck: Availability on Sony’s PlayStation 3 and Microsoft’s Xbox. “More wherever. More whenever. Than ever,” is Hulu’s new marketing slogan.

The 2-year-old company, which said it was profitable on more than $100 million in revenue last year, served up 1.2 billion videos to U.S. users in May, nearly triple from a year earlier. It is a distant second to Google’s 14.6 billion, according to market researcher Comscore. Netflix did not comment on the Hulu announcement. The publicly traded company reported $493.7 million in its recently first quarter, which ended March 31. Its quarterly profit was $32.3 million. Netflix has 14 million subscribers.