I think the expression is three strikes and you’re out. And with three execs involved with Hulu now having hinted at paid content on its way, I think it’s safe to assume this is more than just an idea of something that could happen in the future. In fact, I’d suggest it’s now guaranteed to happen.
Hulu is currently the free home of premium online video content in the United States. The fact it’s only available in the U.S. is annoying for those of us outside the country but there is at least hope of an international roll-out to come.
The problem is that it doesn’t look as though Hulu will be completely free for much longer. In fact, if the people in charge have their way, which they undoubtedly will seeing as they are indeed in charge, Hulu could be charging by 2010, which is just over two months away.
Hulu To Charge?
There has been speculation about this move occurring for several months but it all came to a head during September. First, News Corps. chairman Rupert Murdoch suggested a paid Hulu was being looked at. And NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker backed him up.
Then a few days later it was suggested that Hulu was already running an internal beta test of how the system could work. No details were forthcoming but the process seemed to already be in motion.
Chase Carey Speaks
And now comes word from News Corp. Deputy Chairman Chase Carey who, according to Broadcasting & Cable, opened the OnScreen Summit with his views on the matter.
“It’s time to start getting paid for broadcast content online. I think a free model is a very difficult way to capture the value of our content. I think what we need to do is deliver that content to consumers in a way where they will appreciate the value. Hulu concurs with that, it needs to evolve to have a meaningful subscription model as part of its business.”
When questioned on a possible timeline Hulu to start charging, he stated that while one wasn’t yet in place, that he fully expected it to occur during 2010.
How Bad Will It Be?
What Carey isn’t saying is Hulu will disappear behind a paywall. In fact, he’s dead set against that idea. But it’s clear that everyone involved with Hulu is now looking at how to bring in more dollars than what they are already getting from advertising.
Whether Hulu users end up being asked to pay for specially-created content or whether certain sections of content will be hidden behind paywalls isn’t yet clear. But I’d suggest the fact that Hulu users will end up being asked to pay for content is now set in stone. Unfortunately.