Viewers who stream network TV shows may soon discover the free ride is not so free.
, which attracted 31 million unique users in March under a free-for-all model, is taking its first steps to change to a model where viewers will have to prove they are a pay-TV customer to watch their favorite shows, sources tell The Post.
In fact, the move by Hulu toward the new model ó called authentication because viewers would have to log in with their cable or satellite TV account number ó was behind the move last week by Providence Equity Partners to cash out of Hulu after five years, these sources said.
And itís not just Hulu making it tougher for cable-cutters to stream shows and other content.
Fox, owned by News Corp., which also owns The Post, is expected to begin talks soon with Comcast on a TV Everywhere deal that will require authentication. Plus, Philadelphia-based Comcast is expected to switch to an authentication model for this summerís Olympic Games (see story at right).
The move toward authentication is fueled by cable companies and networks looking to protect and profit from their content.