hulu

Don’t hurt me, I’m just the messenger. Yesterday, I wrote about Youtube considering rental options for independent films and other content, and now we have another free service looking to charge for content.  The LA Times is reporting that Hulu is currently looking for new ways of making revenue, and chief among them is a plan to charge for older TV episodes.

Hulu is considering limiting free episodes for some TV series to the latest five, and charging $4.99 a month for access to the rest. They are looking to offer at least 20 new and older series in this fashion to entice users. More concrete pricing plans could be announced within six months.

It’s a shame that we may soon be looking back fondly at the days of a completely free Hulu, but we knew this was coming. Don’t forget that Hulu is a partnership between NBC Universal (which Comcast will soon own), News Corp., and Disney. You’d be a fool to think that the corporate overlords would allow the site to operate on ads alone.

Hulu has always been an experiment in providing content in a radically different way. Now the networks know it’s a success, and they need to figure out a way to monetize without toppling the precarious deck of cards they’ve built with users expecting free content.

Industry analysts point out the obvious to the LAT: Hulu needs to charge if they ever want move from the computer screen to the television a la Netflix streaming. Hulu is currently fighting various methods of accessing their content on TVs — including PlayOn, the software I rely on. Most likely this is due to whining by cable providers (which is also why they dropped much of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia). If they were to charge a nominal fee perhaps they’d be allowed to pursue a TV presence without issue.

Honestly, given how much I use Hulu on my television, I’d gladly pay up to $10 a month for an official Hulu application on the Xbox 360 or Boxee Box, along with ad-free unlimited access to their library. They could also sweeten the deal by enabling HD streaming (where available) for paying subscribers.

Basically, I’ll pay if they make it worth my while. Hulu will likely be able to grab more content if they prove that people will pay, which makes users happy — and the added revenue will surely please their corporate overlords and other content providers. Assuming they handle this correctly, everybody wins.

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