Google Chromecast adds Hulu Plus to compete with Apple TV, others

The stakes in the streaming TV competition have been raised as Chromecast adds Hulu Plus, and studies indicate more interest in streaming video than ever before.

Beck Diefenbach/ Reuters/ File
Google's new Chromecast device synchs between a television and the new Nexus 7 tablet. The Chromecast device for watching online videos on television costs $35.

In an epic battle of tech and TV, online giants sometimes have to forge alliances to come out on top.

Such is the case with Google Chromecast and Hulu Plus. Google Chromecast, the thumb-sized TV connector that allows users to broadcast whatever is on their laptop or mobile device to their TV, was initially met with doubt as it only streamed videos from Google-owned YouTube, the Google Play Store, and Netflix. Many worried that it would be unable to compete in the Internet-TV world with only three services.

But it has taken another step forward toward TV domination. Hulu Plus will now stream on Google Chromecast, opening a new market for both Hulu and Google.

Now, Hulu Plus users can use their mobile device or tablet like a remote to browse Hulu and send video to their TV. Previously, free Hulu shows could be streamed on Chromecast, but audio came from the mobile device or tablet. Now, audio and video transfers to TV, so users can watch current TV shows like Fox’s “The Mindy Project” or NBC’s “Sleepy Hollow” for the one-time purchase price of $35 for a Google Chromecast, and an $8 monthly subscription fee for Hulu Plus.

This is a smart move for Google, whose Chromecast device, launched in July, is currently the no. 1 seller in the Amazon electronics store. It retails for much less than streaming-box rivals like the Roku 3 set-top and Apple TV set-top (both $99), though both offer wider ranges of services.

The combination of Netflix (movies and TV that have been released on video), Hulu (current TV), and YouTube (Internet videos), and the expected addition of HBO Go, Pandora, and other streaming services could be the strategy that helps Google’s Chromecast preside over the video-streaming realm.

But it won’t win without a struggle. Apple TV is due to roll out a big update, and the company recently hired tech developer Jean-Francois Mule, formerly of CableLabs where he worked on TV and WiFi projects in the past.

One thing is for sure, however: people want Internet TV. According to a study released in September by market research group GfK, 51 percent of United States adults (15 to 54) watch TV or movies using streaming video at least once per week. Five percent of respondents use tablets to stream video and 4 percent uses smartphones. GfK Senior Vice President of GfK’s media and entertainment team sees this as a big opportunity for tech and TV companies.

“As broadband connections and mobile devices continue to improve, this trend is bound to accelerate, creating a host of opportunities for those who can think ahead of the next technology,” he says.

The new Hulu Plus for Chromecast app is available on Android phones and tablets and the iPad, with the iPhone soon to join.

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