Yesterday Chase Carey, News Corp.'s president and COO, stated that Hulu, the online video portal owned by News Corp., The Walt Disney Company, NBC Universe, and Providence Equity Partners, will start to charge users a subscription fee at some point down the line. Such fees apparently could start as soon as 2010.
Hulu is, almost without a doubt, the best online video destination. The site streams high quality video content from ABC, FOX, abd NBC, among others, and has rapidly grown in popularity since its inception in March of 2007.
Hulu has apparently not, despite its popularity, been able to make money via the commercials which air during programming (Hulu shows are not commercial free). However, the notion that they are going to start charging is something that many will undoubtedly find deplorable. It is not easy to attempt to go from a free model to a pay one, and Hulu may find it even more difficult as much of the TV programming that they stream is available via free over-the-air broadcasts. The pro argument for the subscription model is not only that iTunes, Hulu's main competitor, has made money charging for video but that without users paying to watch, the site will never earn enough money to make it a viable entity.
As for what a subscription model might look like, that is more up in the air. Daniel Fienberg, HitFix's executive editor and TV critic, suspects that any subscription model Hulu employs will be akin to one "wherein you can watch new shows the morning after for a small subscription fee and then the shows are available for free a week later. It's hard to imagine Hulu going to any model that's more restrictive than that." Though Fienberg was merely speculating on what the model may be, he truly seems to feel that Hulu will not charge a fee for everything and that the site does need to find a way to monetize itself if it is to survive.
Should Fienberg be right about the look of the model, Hulu fans may find themselves breathing a sigh of relief. Of course, without any set date and only the possibility that a charge will be implemented in the next 12 months, it is very difficult to judge exactly what Hulu's intent may be at this point in time. It is even possible that they are merely floating the idea at this moment to simply judge the reaction from the public at large. If Hulu does opt for a pay model and that model is successful, it could greatly redefine the public's interaction with the Internet in years to come.