Oh Internet, say it ain’t so!

Hulu – my utopia of free TV online – may soon become another run-of-the-buck paid subscription site (see header image)! (Sigh) It was only a matter of time, really…

Broadcasting & Cable brings us this chilling news, which supposedly originated from the mouth of News Corp. Deputy Chairman Chase Carey, who said during the Onscreen Media Summit that:

“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.”

Aw heck, we all knew this day was coming when we’d hear those words spoken about our beloved Hulu – doesn’t it always happen that way with our favorite sites?

However… In my vast Internet experience our favorite sites stop being “our favorite sites” pretty soon after they start asking for membership fees. I know that more than a few of you out there have woken up one day to find your favorite online pop-in spot suddenly requiring you provide them a credit card number, sending you back to the search engine nexus typing in the words “free, streaming…”

…Aaaand I suspect that tradition won’t be changing for the small pool of TV shows and movies that  Hulu currently offers. Despite all those clever commercials with celebrities posing as aliens using Hulu to mush our brains, there’s still enough solid cerbral material left in this guy’s skull to determine that Hulu would need to expand its range of content much, much, wider for me to consider buying into the service. I’m talking:

  • More popular cable series (even some premium channel shows for “platinum” members who pay extra).
  • Every network primetime show of the current season.
  • More GOOD movies (Better picks of old films; same-day and direct-to-video releases (at discounted cost); premium channel releases for platinum members).
  • Same-day airings of primetime TV shows (with ads, if necessary).
  • Bigger TV show archives (for when I go on an Arrested Development or It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia binge).
  • Exclusive “first looks” for movie trailers and making of featurettes.
  • Music videos and Popular news clips added to the lineup.
  • Make all content accessible to any digital mobile device or game system (ipods, smart phones, Xbox Live).
  • Embed and sharing capabilities on all shows/movies (at least clips).
  • Everything in HD.

Now THAT – combined with Hulu’s great interface – would be a service I would pay for.

While I agree with Carey in the sense that it’s time for companies to have a fair shot at pursuing profits in the online market, I do think said companies are still floating  archaic ideas about how to convert their “digital dimes” into digi-dollars.

The Internet has always been based on one fundamental principle: Accomplish a lot with little effort. So, if I can have access to a bunch of movies and shows I watch; get sneak peeks on the hottest music videos or movie trailers; keep up with reports on the latest news clips everyone is talking about; spend my rainy weekends marathoning through old favorites; see everything in crisp HD and share it all with my friends… Why not fork out a reasonable fee to accomplish all that?

Try selling me Hulu as it stands now, and I’m going to tell you the names of all the TV network sites where you can watch the same shows for free (hint: just throw a “.com” behind the name of your favorite network) – or maybe the names of sites that will stream old movie favorites, legally, for free. Basically, I’m going to tell you that I really don’t need Hulu all that much after all…

What about you – is Hulu something you’d pay to keep? Or does the notion of shelling out for it make you say “Thanks  but no thanks!”

Source: Broadcasting & Cable