Gone from Hulu “every one” isn’t a fair characterization*, but it seems FX has gotten a bit stingy in streaming full TV episodes. There was a small note in a recent GigaOM Pro report (yes, I subscribe) stating that FX removed three seasons worth of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia from Hulu in the first quarter of 2009. This struck me because of commentary I heard from a Discovery Channel exec back at The Cable Show. The Discovery Channel is not interested in streaming free episodes online, preferring instead to protect its dual-revenue business model with both advertising and carriage fees from pay TV operators. Perhaps other cable networks like FX see wisdom in this?
A quick review on Hulu found six FX shows represented, but only four shows include full episodes. Rescue Me is the standout with 55 episodes available. Canceled show The Riches has 20 episodes, and 30 Days has 18 episodes. Sunny has only seven episodes available, while Burn Notice, Nip Tuck, and Sons of Anarchy have none. The lack of Burn Notice episodes surprises me given that the popular show returns to air this week, though FX says it will stream episodes again on Hulu when the new season starts. (As a commenter points out below, Burn Notice is on the USA Network. Sorry All, I had Burn Notice on the brain, but it’s still interesting that available episodes online are limited.)
There is very little consistency in how content owners are distributing video online, but it seems likely that less and less of it will be free in the future, particularly if/when initiatives like Hulu-on-Roku become a reality. I think of this as one of the reasons it’s good to be an early adopter. With more of the mainstream jumping on the Internet video bandwagon, content owners and providers (like the cablecos) have more incentive than ever to limit what’s available for no charge.
*The title and first line of this post are a reference to the folk song “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”. I am a child of a child of the sixties.