For nine years, Hulu has been a pretty great way for TV lovers to catch up on their favorite shows, without having to pay for that privilege, which has been a large reason for the popularity of the service. However, as the streaming service market has become much more competitive, Hulu has decided that the free streaming model just isn't for them anymore, and they are going to get with the times. Now, all users will have to pay to use Hulu, as the company is moving to a strictly subscription based model.

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Hulu has officially announced that they will be winding down the free version of their service, and will move to a subscription only model, which starts at $7.99 a month. The company said it will be notifying their users over the next few days. Hulu senior vice president Ben Smith issued a statement about the change, and here is what he had to say.

"For the past couple years, we've been focused on building a subscription service that provides the deepest, most personalized content experience possible to our viewers. As we have continued to enhance that offering with new originals, exclusive acquisitions, and movies, the free service became very limited and no longer aligned with the Hulu experience or content strategy."

Netflix and Amazon have been making a big push for quality, original programming over the last couple of years, and that has led to some very stiff competition in the streaming market. Not only that, but HBO has expanded, now offering HBO NOW to anyone who wants it, no longer requiring a cable or satellite subscription for access. That being the case, Hulu has had to make a push for quality programming and exclusives, but that hasn't yet translated to converting enough of their free users to subscribers. So, the move to a purely subscription model seems to make sense.

As of right now, Hulu has 12 million subscribers, but that isn't enough to make the service profitable, so the company is being forced to make some moves. Despite not being profitable, the service clearly represents a very significant value. Last week, Time Warner Inc. said it would pay $583 million for a 10 percent stake in Hulu, which would value the company at more than $5 billion. The other 90 percent of the company is owned by Walt Disney Co., Comcast Corp.'s NBCUniversal and Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox, who all own 30 percent each.

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In addition to the move to a purely subscription based model, Hulu has also struck a deal with Yahoo for much of the programming to appear on the new Yahoo View streaming service. Additionally, Hulu is planning to launch a live-streaming service next year, which will take aim at expensive cable and satellite packages, much like Sling TV is currently doing. Hulu is expected to be making a bigger push for original content and along with these new moves, they are hoping to close the gap on Netflix, who currently has more than 75 million subscribers. We will have to wait and see how it plays out, but given Time Warner's recent investment, don't expect Hulu to disappear anytime soon. You'll just have to pay to use it.

Ryan Scott