Hulu is moving to a paid-only model with a few free shows available through Yahoo. What does this mean for the rest of the legal anime still on the site?

Quick! Go watch a video online!

Wait! Scratch that! Stay here! Don’t go anywhere! Come back!

You here? Good.

Let’s start again. If you were going to leave this site and watch a show or clip, where would you go? If you thought of Hulu, then you must be a subscriber. For everyone else, if you haven’t been there lately, you may be in for a surprise.

Hulu Changes

Hulu is one of the many sites that host anime legally. Unlike, say, Crunchyroll (which concentrates on Asian media) or YouTube (which was originally geared toward clips and personal videos), Hulu concentrates on television shows. It hosts a slew of currently-airing and old shows, and it is often compared to Netflix. Hulu had a particular major advantage over its main competitor though: many shows could be watched without a paid subscription. By joining Hulu Plus, however, viewers could access older episodes and shows from Hulu’s partners. Hulu Plus subscribers also had few commercial breaks and could watch on mobile devices, unlike regular Hulu visitors.

But recently, Hulu has announced that they will move to a pay-only model. That leaves two options for people who use their service: the $7.99 basic package and the $11.99 no commercials option. (Select shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Once Upon A Time, and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. feature commercials before and after the program even in the $11.99 package.)

However, Hulu free is still around… just not on Hulu itself. Hulu has partnered with Yahoo to launch Yahoo View. The press release describes the new venture as:

a new TV-watching site where you can watch episodes of your favorite TV shows and go beyond the episode with clips, recaps and the best of Tumblr fandom. Yahoo View is the extension of Yahoo’s long-standing distribution partnership with Hulu and will offer thousands of TV, anime, Korean drama and movies including full episodes, films, and clips for free.”

The deal comes at a time when Yahoo itself is being bought by the telecommunications company Verizon. Time Warner also recently purchased 10% stake in Hulu this month.

The Future of Hulu

There’s a lot of uncertainty in this transition time, especially for anime fans that use Hulu. Will FUNimation keep their Hulu offerings? Will Verizon customers get some sort of bonus or interactivity like the previous AT&T and Hulu deal? When will Hulu launch outside of the U.S. and Japan?

Right now, Yahoo View appears to be to for the U.S. only. For watchers outside the fifty states, your habits are not likely to change much, since Hulu already had an international block on their content. Current subscribers shouldn’t notice any difference, but Hulu is promising more exclusives.

Hulu, however, is trying to put pressure on Netflix. Netflix generally waits and puts up full seasons up on their site, but Hulu adds episodes as they air. This is important to many anime fans, as they like to keep up with weekly streams instead of marathoning shows. In addition, users can find shows on Yahoo View, but some people may not want to deal with the Yahoo ecosystem. For instance, as of this writing, I could only see episodes descriptions in either Firefox or Chrome; I couldn’t get episodes to stream at all.

Yahoo View
What Yahoo View looks like to me on Firefox and Chrome

I never had a problem with Hulu before. So what will happen to all those people who don’t like Yahoo or can’t get the latest episodes to play? Will they turn to the show’s official site and watch it directly there? Watch it on their TV via on demand? Find an illegal stream?

I think a lot will come down to exclusives. For anime fans, Netflix has shows like The Seven Deadly Sins and Knights of Sidonia. Hulu also recently had a lot of anime licenses expire, so a good portion (all? Who knows, I can’t see them) can be viewed elsewhere without a subscription as well. So I guess it will all come down to whether you want a whole bunch of different shows on one site or more direct access (e.g. Sailor Moon on Viz Media’s official site, on the Japanese media site Crunchyroll, or television show variety site Hulu).

What do you think of these changes? Will any of this affect your viewing habits?