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Why has Hulu posed little threat to Netflix? New report blames a predictable culprit

Comcast Hulu Vs. Netflix Apple TV

There’s a lot to like about Hulu but it’s never posed any kind of threat to Netflix, despite its clear ambitions for doing so. If you want some perspective, consider that the last time Hulu announced its subscriber numbers, it had 6 million in total. Netflix, meanwhile, added a stunning 4.9 million subscribers over the last quarter alone and now boasts a subscriber base of more than 62 million worldwide.

BACKGROUND: Apple’s online TV service looks like a giant middle finger to Comcast

Why has Netflix succeeded dramatically more than Hulu has? Some of it definitely has to do with the quality of original content Netflix is churning out, as Hulu has no original content that’s on par with House of CardsOrange is the New BlackThe Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt or Daredevil. But there’s another aspect at play as well: Namely, how much support its gotten from parent companies such as Comcast, Disney and 21st Century Fox.

A report in The Wall Street Journal earlier this week detailed how Comcast allegedly convinced Fox and Disney to not sell off Hulu by promising to make the service “the nationwide streaming video platform for the cable TV industry, which would boost the site’s growth and make it a stronger rival to Netflix.” Disney and Fox agreed to call off the sale in part because of Comcast’s promises. However, Hulu never really rose to challenge Netflix for reasons that are Comcastically predictable.

“In the end, Comcast and Hulu never did consummate such a partnership,” the Journal writes. “Months of discussions were bogged down as Comcast indicated it would want any viewer accessing Hulu to be redirected through Comcast’s own video players and platforms — a way to make sure Comcast has a window into customer data and ensure viewers saw its user interface.”

Why did Comcast do this? According to the Journal’s sources, Comcast was never all that interested in pushing Hulu because it preferred that customers use its own X1 set-top box instead. And in case you’re wondering, the X1 still doesn’t have a Hulu app.

If you think you’ve heard this story before, that’s because you have. Let’s recall that Apple had tried negotiating with Comcast for years to get support for its own standalone TV streaming service. In the end, however, Apple reportedly concluded that Comcast was just stringing it along while working more intently on promoting the X1. This was why Apple decided to bypass Comcast all together and negotiate directly with content providers for its streaming service.

To recap: In the name of promoting its own set-top box, Comcast has reportedly stunted the potential growth of a modestly popular TV streaming app while at the same time annoying Apple to such an extent that Apple decided to cut Comcast out of its potentially lucrative TV streaming deal all together.

We can’t say we’re surprised in the slightest.

Prior to joining BGR as News Editor, Brad Reed spent five years covering the wireless industry for Network World. His first smartphone was a BlackBerry but he has since become a loyal Android user.