Hulu to Start Charging - Sound the Death Bells?

Story here on Lifehacker.

Hulu, the free, ad-supported online video service showing popular TV shoes and movies, will officially begin charging for content in 2010. According to an informal poll, also on Lifehacker, only 17% of users said they’d pay for Hulu. A whopping 72% said no way.

Personally, I’m in the latter camp. Maybe if Hulu had begun as a pay-per-view or subscription-based service, I’d be more amenable to a fee. But changing their business model after being free for the last 2 years is a bitter pill to swallow. Being asked to pay for formerly free service makes me feel jilted. I realize they need a viable business model, but I don’t think this is it.

The big questions are: will enough people be willing to pay for Hulu? And If Hulu starts charging, will they use the revenue they recieve to improve Hulu, such as adding more content and finding new licensors willing to sign with them and share in that revenue? If so, then I think Hulu may survive.

For the record, Hulu has always charged for their service. It’s no different in concept than any local TV station where advertising is the source of revenue.

Depends on what the price structure is.

If they charge by individual show, and if it is more than iTunes, I won’t use Hulu. Why pay the same amount for streaming video when you can get the flexibility that comes with actually downloading a show? If it’s significantly less than iTunes, I may spring for the occasional show – however right now I’ll go to it when I miss the ending of a show because my DVR cut off. I wouldn’t do that if they charged per show.

IMHO, a smarter way to do it would be as a subscriptions service. Pay a monthly fee, use it as much as you like. I’d be willing to pay around $10 a month for it. Probably not much more.

I don’t watch Hulu now so I’m certaintly not going to start once they start charging. Two of my brothers watch Hulu more than they do actual TV. I’m not sure how they will feel about this especially as they are younger, late teen and early 20’s, and are always hard up for money.

I rarely watch it now. Sometimes I go to it, but they only had a few shows on that I was interested in. I won’t pay to watch.

Unfortunately, I’m addicted to Hulu. So they pretty much have my sorry ass.

Also, there is no way in hell Hulu is going to fail. Worst case scenario they’ll have to go back to giving it away for free or we’ll be forced to watch more commercials.

I’ve only watched it a couple of times, mainly due to DVR malfunction. I can’t imagine paying for it unless it was really cheap, like $.25/episode cheap.

I use Hulu fairly frequently, but because it is free. If I had to pay for it I would not bother.

I find some of the reactions fairly odd. Many folks do value Hulu, obviously, the question shouldn’t be “Would you pay for it” but “How much would you pay for it?” It isn’t valuable to you just because it is free, but because it is below your current price point. Is say a charge of 0.01 a show going to dissuade you from using Hulu? What about a price of $5 a year? I just cannot flat out say I wouldn’t pay for Hulu, I wouldn’t pay any price, but I can see myself paying some price for it, because it has value.

or do folks have some sort of weird issue with them charging on somje sort of ethical fornt?

I could potentially pay for watching TV online. I’m not sure it would be hulu that I choose though.

Hulu charging is a good thing ultimately. Free content is not a manageable feat. Content provision as a service should be the angle by which the provider receives the funding. Free content competes with pay content and makes it more difficult for providers to create new content. Ultimately you will be dealing with content more like this. It’s not very far off.

The goal is to price it so that it circumvents piracy by providing a reliable but safe format. Any forward thinking content provider should be out seeding false torrents on every torrent site they can in order to drive business toward their sanctioned outlet.

I don’t think I’d pay for it. I’m already paying for content via premium cable TV , iTunes, and Netflix, and I can store programs on my DVR or iPod. What does Hulu have to offer now that I can’t get elsewhere? Plus, charging for content that was formerly free tends to make consumers mad - didn’t the NYT get rid of its “premier” pay content because it failed to attract customers?

We have DSL, which means about 1.2 MB download, which means Hulu pretty frequently buffers (probably once every 3 or 4 minutes). That’s a pain in the butt, and if their service were improved to the point that, like YouTube, I could load a whole show before starting it, I’d probably be willing to pay a nominal fee: we don’t get TV reception at all at our house, nor do we have a digital TV nor cable. But if the service stays the same, we’ll go back to watching DVDs rented from our local store.

I’d be willing to pay for Hulu only if all of the following conditions are met:

a) It uses a subscription model
b) It’s reasonably priced (i.e. less than $50/year for unrestricted access)
c) Paid users do not have to watch any commercials
d) New episodes of TV shows are posted by the morning after their initial airing
e) Episodes that are posted are left up for eternity (i.e. none of this “episode available for only 2 weeks” bullshit)
f) They post entire full-run, whole-episode archives of shows

The strength of the internet as a platform for watching television is the ability to directly connect viewers with what they want to see, when they want to see it. If I, as a paid Hulu subscriber, want to watch a random episode from the third season of “Buffy” at 4 in the morning, I should be able to do so easily. Otherwise I might as well just get a Netflix subscription instead - it’ll take a bit longer to get my content (assuming Netflix doesn’t have the streaming “Watch Instantly” option for that video already), but at least I’ll get it within a day or two, and then be able to watch it on my own terms.

I like Hulu, I watch it a lot. There are things that I eiter can’t get elsewhere or are much more inconvenient to get elsewhere. But it isn’t worth a great deal of money. I’m pretty certain I won’t pay a per-show fee, but I might pay a monthly subscription level if it were low enough, and low enough is going to be fairly low. Comcast, TiVo, and Netflix already have me close to my “how much are you willing to pay for television?” limit. Hulu will need to stay very cheap to be worth it.

This is the way of the internet. Companies come up with an e-product, get uber-popular by offering a cool service for free, and then realize they aren’t making any money and that their business model needs work. What comes next is either “start charging for service, and either go under or lose 90% of customer base”, or “figure out other ways to make money, profit”.

Right. And when they start charging for it, all of their users migrate to someone else who is offering the same thing for free. It’s like a pyramid sceme, only in reverse.

Gangster Octopus I really won’t pay anything for Hulu. I watch it occasionally, but I will never miss it if it’s gone.

Pretty much what Tanbarkie said, although I posted that I wouldn’t pay before I read the posts in this thread.

It all hinges on whether I find the content I want. Right now I’m fairly pissed off with the serevice. I’m just about the last person on the planet who until recently had never seen an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Hulu had the first three seasons up, and I got hooked. I had watched all the episodes in order up to the end of season 2, spent a couple weeks away, and when I came back they’d dropped everything but the first 12 episodes of season 1. What the hell?