NEW YORK (AP) — TV watchers are going online, and cable companies are following them there.
Suddenlink, which has 1.1 million TV subscribers, is the latest to hook up with Hulu. It said Wednesday that it will be adding the service to its TiVo set-top box later this year. It integrated Netflix last year.
There has been a string of cable company partnerships with Hulu and Netflix announced over the past year, primarily with smaller providers.
The benefit of these deals for consumers is that they make it easier to watch online video in the living room, on your TV. Services like Hulu get a marketing boost and a way to add new subscribers. The cable companies have a chance to talk you into upgrading to faster, more expensive broadband speeds and keep you watching online video competitors on their cable box rather than away from your TV on your iPad.
"If they're already buying or planning to buy Netflix and/or Hulu, what we're doing gives them more usability for the service and it provides more value to them from the product they get from us," said Kathy Payne, Suddenlink's chief programming officer.
For customers with a TiVo box from their cable provider, you can get a list of live episodes, on-demand episodes from the cable provider and episodes from the online services all from one search. Hulu and Netflix pop up as channels on the TV guide. You don't have to use an additional device like a Roku, game console or Apple TV, with a separate remote, to watch online video on your TV.
But just because your cable provider is doing this partnership doesn't automatically mean you'll be able to watch Hulu and Netflix through your cable box. Only about 40 percent of Suddenlink customers with a digital video recorder provided by the company use the TiVo version.
And the subscription services are optional. Cable customers don't have to pay for them just because they are available through the cable box. Hulu, through its website, costs $8 a month. Netflix starts at $8 a month too.
Suddenlink added a Netflix app to its TiVo box last year and is exploring options for other online video partnerships too, Payne said.
Could it hurt the video business? She said that customers are already saying they want more choices of video packages, including smaller, cheaper ones, and that so far Netflix has primarily been a complementary service. Meanwhile, subscribing to online video may prompt customers to upgrade to faster, more expensive Internet.
"I don't know if we can attribute that just to Netflix but definitely we've seen higher demand" for faster Internet, Payne said.
In its most recent quarter, Suddenlink's video customers fell 4.7 percent to 1.1 million. Internet customers rose 7.3 percent to 1.2 million.
European phone and cable giant Altice last week announced it was paying $9.1 billion for a controlling stake in St. Louis-based Suddenlink, which mainly serves smaller markets in the South, West and Midwest.
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