Hulu might restrict access to those with cable subscriptions -- eventually

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Here’s some potentially bad news for cable cutters: The New York Post writes that free streaming site Hulu might eventually become a Pay-TV-subscribers-only zone. Last fall, Fox began limiting access to its most popular series on Hulu; while Dish TV, Verizon Fios, and Hulu Plus subscribers can still watch shows like Glee the day after they air, everyone else must wait an additional eight days if they want to view for free.

And according to the Post, this “authentication” model — so-called because viewers without Hulu Plus get next-day access to Fox shows by logging in with a Dish or Verizon account number — may soon become more common across the site. The paper reports that Comcast could introduce authentication for its subscribers in the near future. That cable network is reportedly going to require authentication for those who wish to watch Summer 2012 Olympics coverage as well.

Anyone who doesn’t currently pay for cable or satellite TV shouldn’t necessarily worry. Though Hulu declined to comment officially on this story, sources tell EW that as of now, nothing has changed on the site. The Fox authentication model has been in place for a while, and no other networks or cable providers have yet signed on for authentication. Still, it’s easy to understand why this mode of business is more attractive to the TV industry than a purely ad-supported model — and it’s not far-fetched that authentication may someday be the norm.

If authentication takes over, PopWatchers, what will you do? Today, it’s relatively easy to watch your favorite shows legally and in a timely manner without subscribing to cable or dish TV — and if you’d like to learn how to cut the cord, plenty of advocates have written how-to guides to having a cable-free life.

But if you really care about television, it’s always made more sense to bite the bullet and pay for cable or satellite. There’s simply no other way to get immediate access to non-network shows. And if you happen to watch more than two of the series that air on overstuffed Sunday nights, investing in cable and a decent DVR is pretty much essential. Maybe, then, an authentication-ized Hulu wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world; casual watchers would still be able to catch up with their shows, while diehard couch potatoes would simply have to log in to Hulu through the cable account they’d be paying for anyway.

So tell me, PopWatchers: Does this news worry you? Or are  you prepared to welcome authentication on Hulu if and when it happens?

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