Well, well, well… this is going to get pretty interesting pretty quickly. One of the three television networks behind Hulu, Fox, has decided to end next-day access to episodes of their programs on Hulu and on the company’s website. (and on DISH network). Moving forward, Fox television shows will be held for an 8-day window before they’ll show up on the streaming video site. This is only a guess, but I think that makes Hulu a little less valuable for an awful lot of viewers. 

Fox Ends Next-Day Episode Access Online

It’s important to note that if you’re a Hulu Plus subscriber, you will still be able to get episodes next-day, as will DISH Network subscribers. But for the average fans… Fox shows will now all go through an 8-day window before becoming available on Fox.com or Hulu.

Here’s a shot of what viewers now see on Fox.com when trying to watch a brand new episode:

Text below that message reads:

“You can unlock full episodes now by signing in to your cable or satellite TV account; otherwise episodes are available for viewing 8 days after the airdate. Select an episode to sign in.”

Implications Of The Fox 8-Day Window?

The real concern, if you’re a Hulu fan that uses the free service, is that ABC and NBC (the other networks pulling the strings) decide to follow suit. And if they do, then that would mean that no new content would hit Hulu without serving at least a week’s time in solitary confinement.

Now, you have to assume that these networks and copyright holders are going to make similar decisions about other streaming sites. The problem is they want to own the eyeballs (and sell ads against them) and are worried that next-day new episodes are carving too big a chunk out of the traditional television audience–or out of their traditional profits. So they could enforce the same waiting period across all sites and services.

It’s a strange new world for everyone in that industry. Cable companies are having to adapt to the web and admit that television isn’t their future. Networks like Fox are worried about possible lost profits or viewers from online access. And the streaming sites that have dominated–Hulu and Netflix, mainly–are always going to be at the mercy of the rights-holders on stuff like this.

Which is exactly why we’ve seen both Netflix and Hulu begin developing their own original content. Netflix, for example, has tons of customers. But they’re really beholden to the copyright holders, not the consumers. If all studios and networks decided to blacklist Netflix, they’d be up a creek, because they don’t control their own product supply… yet. But they will.

What do you think about Fox’s move? Do you watch Fox programming online? If so, will an 8-day window be a nuisance for you or not?