Hulu adds Fargo and other cable shows, looks more like Netflix

Hulu doesn’t want to leave all the good shows to Netflix and Amazon: The streaming video services has signed deals with 20th Century Fox and MGM to make Hulu the exclusive subscription home for a number of shows, including Fargo, Taboo and The Comedians. However, the deals are also make Hulu look a lot more like its competitors, and less like the catch-up service we are used to.

The deal with 20th Century Fox brings a number of FX Networks and FXX shows to Hulu, including Tyrant, The Strain, Married and You’re the Worst, all of which are set to become available on Hulu before the second season airs on TV. The service also secured the rights to a bunch of shows scheduled to launch on the two networks in 2015, including a comedy series starring Billy Crystal called The Comedians, a drama called Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll starring Denis Leary and a drama called Taboo from executive producer Ridley Scott. All of those shows will also come to Hulu only after the first season concludes on TV.

The MGM deal exclusively brings the first season of the hit mini series Fargo to Hulu, with episodes coming to the service just before the second season hits FX in fall of 2015. The deal also adds the History channel’s Vikings show, as well as a bunch of catalog fare, including “thousands of episodes” from shows like Stargate Universe, Stargate Atlantis, Stargate: SG-1, Flipper, Adams Family, Dead Like Me and others, according to a post on the Hulu blog.

There’s a common thread throughout those announcements, and I’m not talking about the fact that most of this stuff aired on FX. Most of the content that comes to Hulu through these deals will only be available to paying Hulu Plus subscribers, and none of it is available in-season. So if you are looking to catch up on a show that aired on FX last night, you’re out of luck. Instead, Hulu will offer everything after a whole season aired on TV, in a binge-friendly fashion.

Sounds familiar? That’s because this is essentially the Netflix model. Netflix has long concentrated on full previous seasons, and only very rarely offered a catch-up experience (the release of Breaking Bad in the U.K. was one of those rare exceptions from the rule). Hulu on the other hand started out primarily as a catch-up service, promising access to shows long before they ended up on Netflix.

But in recent seasons, networks have severely curtailed next-day access on Hulu. ABC, Fox and the CW network already delay access to their content for users for eight days after a show airs on TV. FX shows are only available in season to users who sign in with their pay TV credentials — even Hulu Plus subscribers only have access to previous seasons. Bravo posts episodes of its shows often after multiple weeks, and only gives users who sign in with their pay TV information access to next-day content.

As next-day catch-up becomes more of an exception than the rule on Hulu, the service is clearly putting a bigger emphasis on Netflix-like binge-watching. Fargo and the other content announced this week is just the latest reminder that Hulu’s identity is evolving.