Hulu to Move to Subscription Model in 2010


Well, the honeymoon couldn’t last forever. I have to admit, Hulu did seem too good to be true from the get-go. For this little family of three, living our days without cable were made a bit easier with the freedom of Hulu, especially during the first season of Legend of the Seeker. Um, wait. Did I write that aloud?

At any rate, I can’t say I was surprised to find that Hulu is planning to charge for content come 2010. Forget the fact that the free model was working. People are greedy, and free things just can’t last, apparently. Yeah, a tiered subscription service for something that started out and became popularized because it was free! Brilliant idea.

Not to mention, there’s something rather oily about the pitch from Chase Carey, deputy chairman of News Corp, co-owners of Hulu. One of his reasons behind the change?

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.

Wait, so it’s our fault? The consumers? We don’t appreciate you enough, we don’t value the content enough, so you’re going to start charging for it? Um, no. That’s not how it works. Back up the wagon here. First of all, that’s one huge judgment call and a really great way to alienate your audience in one fell swoop. Reading that quote just makes me cringe.  No, it’s not the consumers. It’s the executives, who are making money (and headlines) with advertising through Hulu but want to milk it for more.

Okay so, here’s the deal: if you start charging for Hulu, I won’t be using it any longer. I’ll get my DVDs through Netflix, I’ll wait. Or, in the case of some of the networks who are hopefully smart enough, I’ll just watch the shows through their websites. That’s value for you, right? Treating your patrons like children (“Oh, honey. You don’t appreciate your toys enough, so I’m going to take them away… or make you pay for them yourself…”) is certainly a good way to destroy your business and alienate your base (which will no longer belong to you).

I suppose it’s important to point out that Hulu wasn’t perfect, sure. But it was a step in the right direction, in a fresh direction. And their commercials were awesome. I seriously doubt that the majority of users are going to pony up money. While much of the announcement is shrouded in a sense of mystery–mentions of some free content, but not all–it’s definitely not good news. In essence, it’s a perfect example of a rather revolutionary approach to media by way of the Internet and executives who, rather than work within the new model to make it work better, just go back to the old approach. Fail, guys. Total fail.

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