The website Hulu, best known for its free library of TV shows and ability to devour entire afternoons, is radically changing its game plan.
It was revealed at an industry summit earlier this week that Hulu will start charging viewers as soon as next year. News Corp Deputy Chairman Chase Carey laid out a plan for a subscription service, with some content still being offered for free.
Now, there is a long track record to suggest that switching from a free service to a subscription can kill a product. (See: online newspaper content.) If you give something to the public for free once, it sets up an expectation that it will always be free. Of course, if a service wants to keep its head above water it will inevitably have to start charging. That’s small consolation to the viewers, however, who feel like the rug got pulled out from under them.
While its exact business model remains unclear, there are several changes that Hulu will need to make in order to pull off a subscription service:
- No more commercials. Episodes should be smooth and completely uninterrupted.
- Select the free content carefully. For instance, only offer the first episode of each season for free as a teaser.
- Stack the library. Right now, Hulu has a pretty solid stable of shows, but if they want to ask for subscriptions they need much more content.
There are plenty of places on the internet (most illegal) to watch free TV. Will you pay for the reputable service of Hulu, or will you look somewhere else for your online TV needs?