According to Entertainment Weekly, the popular online video website Hulu is likely to begin charging for its services as early as 2010, as announced by News Corporation Deputy Chairman Chase Carey. Carey asserted that “a free model is a very difficult way to capture the value of our content” and that Hulu “needs to evolve to have a meaningful subscription model as part of its business.”
Hulu.com has been distributing videos (including TV shows and B movies) from various networks since March 2008 free of charge, using advertisements for products ranging from Halo 3: ODST to Pop Tarts to generate revenue.
Hulu’s increasing popularity and the cultural shift which has come with it are the most likely the reason behind the decision to charge users. As viewers have become more accustomed to using their computer as an analogue for their television, one wonders whether Hulu stands to lose its popularity with the introduction of subscription fees. Hulu is free, slick, and legal, but it’s hard to believe that free isn’t the most salient feature to many of its users. Once Hulu is no longer free, people will most likely turn to watching their streamed TV shows on low-quality, illegal websites.
CMCers, as well as other college students, are likely to be affected the most because as it is now the price is right, the quality is good and most importantly, we don’t have to interrupt our busy schedules to view our favorite shows; instead, Hulu users are free to watch TV based on their own schedule instead of TV Guide’s. Perhaps if Hulu survives its decision to charge users, it will introduce more TV shows and movies than are currently offered. But that’s a big “if.”