Nearly three months after Google TV hit the stores, Hulu Plus has yet to come to the service. Is the technical development really taking that much time? No. It seems more like Google and Hulu are still working out a partnership deal.
Hulu Works For Samsung TVs
Last week’s Consumer Electronics Show got me thinking about what’s up with Hulu and Google TV. I spent some time with a Samsung Smart TV and found Hulu Plus working great on that platform:
In fact, Samsung told me it has had its Hulu Plus app since the middle of last year. In addition, Hulu’s not blocking Samsung’s built-in web browser, as it does Google’s. Nor are any of the major US TV networks blocking the Samsung browser, a Samsung representative told me.
Hulu Plus Is Coming To Android
Hmm. Hulu Plus is enabled as a widget for a Samsung TV but still hasn’t made it to Google TV? That seemed odd. Then later last week, more news from CES. Hulu itself announced that it would be bringing Hulu Plus to select Android phones in the coming months.
Interesting. Google TV is effectively a big Android phone. It runs on the Android operating system. Would Google TV be considered one of these Android devices?
But Android-Powered Google TV Is Different
Nope. Google told me that Hulu on Android is just for smartphones and then, only for selected ones — not for TV or tablets. As for Hulu, it wouldn’t comment at all beyond this:
We are not making any announcements regarding Google TV at this time. What I can tell you now is that Hulu is currently in discussions with Google to bring Hulu Plus to Google TV.
I specifically asked if the hold-up was technical or business-related and was told “we are not commenting further.”
The Business Hold-Up
I’m pretty sure that the discussions are all about a business relationship, not any technical concerns. At this point, there seems little reason why Hulu Plus wouldn’t have made it to Google TV, much less ANY Android device out there.
Instead, some type of back-room deal clearly hasn’t yet been worked out. Whether that requires Google to pay Hulu, whether Google wants some of the Hulu Plus revenues, whether the networks that own Hulu Plus are just dragging their feet or if there’s some other factor, I don’t know. I’ll try to learn more.
The Hulu Hypocrisy
What I do know is the message below about Hulu “working hard” to bring Hulu Plus to Google TV probably would more accurately be written that Hulu is in business negotiations with Google TV about bringing Hulu Plus to the service.
That screen, by the way, is what I see as a paid subscriber to Hulu Plus. I’m actually able to log-in to Hulu Plus using Google TV’s web browser. There’s no technical reason I can’t watch the shows I’ve paid for. It’s simply that Hulu is blocking its own paid subscribers.
The Network Hypocrisy
Meanwhile, the major US TV networks themselves continue to block Google TV, including NBC Universal, a part owner of Hulu.
Now consider that when I was watching an episode of 30 Rock on NBC via broadcast TV, NBC gave me this message.
“Watch full episodes, at NBC.com,” the promo said, while it also flashed on screen, “free, anytime.”
That seems like false advertising. Full episodes are not online for free at NBC.com, not if you’re using Google TV or a number of other devices. If you want to watch them via Hulu Plus, which as said, NBC partly owns, a Hulu Plus subscription required. And even then, depending on your device, you still might be denied.
Ironically, Samsung has just announced (PDF file, via Android Guys) that it will offer a Google TV box later this year. There’s irony. You might find that your Samsung Google TV box, powering perhaps your Samsung Smart TV, can’t get Hulu Plus or access shows on TV network sites because the networks still fear Google. But turn off the box, and your exact same Samsung Smart TV will be perfectly able to do both things.
Also see Internet-To-TV Players Compared: Roku, Apple TV, Boxee & Google TV, our recent comparision chart of internet-to-TV devices, which also provides more information about Google TV and Hulu Plus.