Sky’s offer of satellite service over the Internet for United Kingdom customers is an interesting step, but it raises a major question: How long can streaming video on demand sites remain free? I’m talking about Hulu, which reportedly attracts more than 40 million viewers these days, but the same question applies to Joost and other sites. On the one hand, we see that few information sites have been able to make a subscription model stick, with the Wall Street Journal leading the exceptions. Having to rely just on advertising has changed the game for magazine Web sites and other information sources, and not always for the better. (But that’s another story.)
You have hybrid models, such as the Netflix streaming service that is free if you already pay a subscription for one of their standard service plans. But can a free service attract enough revenue from advertisers and other sources to make it? News Corp — owner of the Fox Network among other things — is a partner in Hulu, but has publicly been making noises about raising licensing fees for cable services which in turn makes you wonder if they’re getting enough return from Hulu. The CEO of Hulu, Jason Kilar, is taking a strong stance that they are right on track, as reported in an excellent article by Claire Atkinson on Broadcasting & Cable. But it looks as though a subscription fee may be in the future for Hulu, or at least for sections of its content. Get them hooked, and then raise the price from free to something.
So if you watch Hulu, how much would that “something” be and you’d still pay it? Is it not worth anything to you, or would you pay $1 a month? How about $12 a month? Where’s your breaking point? Or would you rather have an iTunes Store or Amazon Video style pay-as-you-go model, instead of a subscription fee?
Let me know how you feel about this. Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me what you’d be willing to pay for Hulu, if anything.