Hulu heads to cable boxes for convenience at a cost

Optimum cable boxes are getting a dash of Internet video with a dedicated Hulu channel.

As of today, subscribers to Cablevision’s Optimum TV service can switch to channel 605 on their cable boxes to access Hulu’s video library. This does require an $8 per month Hulu subscription (or $12 per month without ads), which Optimum will gladly sell to users who don’t have one already. The channel has been nearly a year in the making, as Hulu and Cablevision announced their integration plans in May 2015.

Keep in mind that a Hulu subscription may not be necessary to catch up on network TV. Many networks that put their shows on Hulu, including ABC, NBC, and Fox, also offer full episodes of their shows to cable subscribers through authenticated “TV Everywhere” apps, such as Watch ABC, the NBC app, and Fox Now. These apps are available on phones, tablets, computers, and connected TV devices.

Still, there’s something to be said for being able to access everything through one box, even if it’s an expensive one. Besides, the vast majority of Hulu subscribers also have a cable subscription, and Hulu is now trying to move beyond next-day TV shows as its main draw. Lately the company has been investing more in original programs like 11.22.63 and The Path.

Why this matters: Despite an increase in people abandoning or forgoing a cable TV subscription, traditional pay TV service still has close to 100 million subscribers. Getting onto cable boxes opens up a huge potential market for streaming services, which explains why Netflix has also been pursuing this strategy. While cable companies may have been wary of embracing these services in the past, they may be starting to change their ways as their grip on the TV market loosens. The longer they can get people to stick with pricey set-top box rentals, the better.

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