Earlier today, news made the rounds that Hulu, an online television show streaming website, will begin charging for their service in 2010 (EW Article).
If you’ve never used Hulu before, here’s the basic premise. Shows from the major networks (ABC, Fox, CBS, NBC, etc) can be watched in both standard and high definition via the Hulu website. The catch is there are some small (less than 30 second) commercials inserted through out the show. The commercials are shorter than those you’d watch on regular TV and less frequent. Giving people a nice way to catch the shows they missed the night before, and give TV people a way to make money. The idea behind Hulu was to eliminate the need for people to illegally download shows through things like BitTorrent. The good news is, it mostly worked. Yes, people still download torrents, but Hulu as an idea worked quite well. People, in general, were willing to put up with the short commercials in trade for the ability to watch their favorite shows online when they wanted.
However, announcing that you’re going to start charging people without a lot details is a bad idea. If you are going to remove the commercials and charge your users, then you might have an argument. However, if you’re going to charge me money and make me sit through commercials, then I’ll have a serious problem (and so will most Hulu users). It is a bad move to start charging for something people have come to expect to be free, and then on top of that still subject them to the commercials.
It is important to note that Hulu hasn’t announced how a subscription service will work or what it will look like so we will all just have to wait and see. Personally Hulu’s content providers need to wake up and realize that they’ll send people back to torrents and other illegal means of getting their favorite shows if they back a bad subscription model. They already lost favor when they made Hulu block things like Boxee, so they really don’t need to earn themselves anymore bad ire.