Hulu's Free Glory Days Are Officially Numbered

Hulu, at the behest of its co-parent News Corp, is going to start charging for content in 2010. This is not so good, this here news.

Here's the money quote from NewsCorpian Chase Carey, so there's no confusion:

It's time to start getting paid for broadcast content online. I think a free model is a very difficult way to capture the value of our content. I think what we need to do is deliver that content to consumers in a way where they will appreciate the value. Hulu concurs with that, it needs to evolve to have a meaningful subscription model as part of its business

An optimist might interpret this as a move toward tiered access, or even the decidedly good addition of paid premium content, like HBO and Showtime. But read carefully:

It's time to start getting paid for broadcast content online

It doesn't get any less premium than broadcast content, which is exactly what Carey says we'll soon be paying for—sometime in 2010, he supposes. (Though to be fair, there's a scrap of reassurance later in the same article: "not all content on Hulu would be behind a pay wall." Cool?) This is extra-extra-foreboding next to last week's statements about a paid Hulu from Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes, highlighted by TVBizwire: "That's not an if," he said "that's a when." It was fun while it lasted, I guess.

On a totally unrelated note, here are some neat articles, for pleasure reading!

Update: Reader Frank pinged Hulu about the issue, and got this not-quite-specific-enough-to-contradict-Carey's-statements response:

Don't worry, Hulu's mission has always been to help people find and enjoy the world's premium, professionally produced content. We continue to believe that the ad-supported, free service is the one that resonates most with the largest group of users and any possible new business models would serve to complement our
existing offering.

Thanks,

Betina Chan-Martin
Hulu

It's a purposely vague reassurance, but a definitive, public "we're not going to charge you for what is currently free" statement would be awfully easy to make, and would quell the concerns of people like Frank. Hint: They haven't made it. [Broadcasting Cable via TVBizwire]