Interesting article and and accompanying blog piece at The New York Times today: Hulu has now been profitable for two quarters, thanks to ad revenue. That’s the good news. The bad news, apparently, is that the ad revenue hasn’t been enough to convince content suppliers — the networks and companies that make the shows — to provide more content. In some cases, they’re providing less or none at all, as in the case of Viacom — which is why there’s no more “Daily Show” on Hulu.
The piece talks about the difficulty of striking a deal with cable networks in particular, which are trying to make money not only off of ads but also off of subscription fees, which Hulu eliminates from the equation.
So the solution to this, according to the TV companies, would be for Hulu to start working on a subscription basis — and it sounds like the director of Hulu sort of agrees:
“Our mission is to help people discover the world’s premium content, and we believe that subscriptions can help to unlock some of that, including sports and movies and premium cable shows,” he said. “We’re certainly open to subscriptions as a complement to an ad-supported model.”
The writers of the piece interpret this in their blog to mean that Jason Kilar, the president, is willing to consider subscriptions only as a way to add content, not to take anything away. So you’d still hypothetically be able to watch the last five episodes of “Castle” or “Lost” for free, but to watch more, or to watch currently unavailable shows from other channels, you might have to pay.
I get nearly all of my television over the computer right now, and a large chunk of it via Hulu, so I’m particularly sensitive to any change in the scheme. However — I think I would pay for an HBO subscription, if something like that was offered. I’d love to see the new shows they’re coming out with. If Hulu could do a show-by-show or channel-by-channel type subscription, they would have solved one of the great dilemmas of cable purchasing. I’d never have to pay for three nights a week of “Arliss” re-runs just to get to “Six Feet Under” ever again.