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TheStreet Open House

Is Hulu About to Turn the Screws on Consumers?

Stocks in this article: NFLX AAPL AMZN DIS CMCSA

As things evolve you can stream all of the old and stale scraps you want at places like Netflix, but if you want anything resembling fresh content, you'll need to pay more via on-demand offerings through outlets such as cable, satellite or iTunes.

Consider the deal Disney announced. It opened ESPN programming up to mobile devices, but only to customers of Verizon (VZ), Time Warner Cable (TWC) and Bright House Networks. That hook up went down last year and the government has not voiced any objection that I know of. And, of course, Time Warner (TWX) only allows HBO subscribers to access HBO GO.

It gets even better for the old guard content owners and worse for glorified bootleggers like Netflix. If the old guard faces any consumer protection-related regulatory pressure, it can quickly and easily concede. While they might have to toss cable and satellite providers under the bus, the outcome of government intervention likely will not benefit companies such as Netflix.

If Washington forces the old guard to open up digital delivery of its programming to nonsubscribers of cable and satellite, it can do it via its own platforms, whether that's Hulu or some TV Everywhere effort. As I have been saying for the last year, that's long overdue - a tier-based subscription service supported by advertising where content owners and deliverers share revenue.

There's a reason why I am long stocks like TWX, Viacom (VIAB), Madison Square Garden (MSG), Rogers Communication (RCI) and BCE, Inc. (BCE). They own or control premium content and, in many cases, they share or have complete control over the mode(s) of delivery for that content.

In this regard, they have power over Netflix and even stronger companies like Apple, Google (GOOG) and Amazon.com (AMZN).

At the time of publication, the author was long TWX, RCI and BCE and also long VIAB and MSG via a custodial account.
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