Would you pay for Hulu?

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.

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2 Responses to Would you pay for Hulu?

  1. punterjoe says:

    I’m not a cable subscriber. Any revenue Hulu makes serving me ads isn’t coming out of Kabletown’s pockets. I would watch more ads – in fact I find most TV content paced around longer adbreaks and would find it more watchable. However if they want to erect a paywall, they can just …well, do whatever they want behind that wall, because I won’t be around to care.
    I have no problem paying for content. I believe content providers should be compensated for their creative works. But paying a subscription to be served content thick with advertising is double dipping as I see it, and I won’t support that. At some point it simply becomes greed.
    …just one curmudgeon’s opinion.

  2. Jenn says:

    My understanding is that the subscription model wouldn’t include advertising, so it wouldn’t really be a double dip, but I haven’t read anything that confirms that.

    The bit about eating away at cable was more in talking about how Hulu has blocked set-top boxes that transfer its content to the TV. That kind of service would convince people with TVs that maybe they don’t need cable anymore, which would ultimately hurt the company. I think folks like you and me who don’t have cable aren’t their big concern.

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