Hulu going the way of Cable TV?

I am often forced to admit that I’m not that old (born in the latter half of 1985), but I hear things. I have been led to understand that cable TV, for instance, was once free of advertisements. You paid for the service, so it didn’t need to be supported by ads. You could watch shows and movies without having to deal with interruptions, and it was great.

But then someone had an idea. “Wait, people are paying for this… so why don’t we collect their money and sell advertising spots? We’ve got a captive audience because people aren’t going to not use what they’re paying for, and advertisers will pay boatloads for those spots!”

Hulu might be working the opposite way down the same track. The new head of News Corp’s digital initiatives, who also happens to have secured a seat on Hulu’s board, is suggesting that what the online video provider needs to do is move to a subscription model, particularly one with “bundling.” We don’t know what these bundles might be, and neither does Jon Miller, but he thinks they’re good ideas.

And Jon Miller knows. After all, he was once a boss for America Online, which bundled CDs with every newspaper, magazine, and hot dog in the country. AOL was hugely successful, and Miller can bring those same powerhouse ideas to Hulu.

Speaking personally, if Hulu wants to charge a modest subscription fee, I won’t begrudge them that. I’d happily pay $10 a month for the service, and while $15 might be pushing it, I might even do that. But if they charged subscription fees and still had advertisers, there is no way in hell I’d give them my money. And let’s not kid ourselves people, they’re not going to tell their advertising partners to take a hike. It would be way more lucrative to have advertisers and paid subscriptions.

I have often lamented that cable TV doesn’t have a more flexible model, because I would happily pay $20 a month to get the 5-6 channels I would actually watch. I won’t pay $30-40 for 60 channels when I will only watch 4 (and still not get a couple of the ones I would like). Hulu doesn’t even have whole channels, just select content, and a lot of it disappears over time. I can’t watch every season of The Office anymore, and they’re only up to around episode 80 of Bleach (out of around 220). Why would I pay to see only what they have to offer and ads on top?

When I’m watching something on Hulu, it is because it is available. I watch what they have because it’s convenient more than because I really want to see what they’re showing. Perhaps I’d rather be watching Show X, but Hulu doesn’t have Show X and neither does anything else online. Therefore, I’ll watch Show Y, because it’s also good, it’s just not what I wanted. I won’t pay to have the luxury of not seeing the things I really want to see.

I doubt Hulu will move to subscriptions, because that would be retarded. But then again, the Internet is filled with many a stupid thing by many a stupid person.

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