Hulu Wants You to Pay for Internet TV. Would You?

Over at All Things D, Peter Kafka is reporting that Internet TV megasite Hulu wants to try a $10/month “Hulu Plus” premium subscription option. He’s not so sure about the idea–it’ ll be hard to come up with an offering that sounds like it’s worth ten bucks in a world of plentiful free online video, doesn’t muck up the good thing which is Hulu’s free version, and makes enough money to make it all worthwhile.

I actively like the idea of Hulu–or someone–coming up with a for-pay Internet TV option that’s so compelling that I’d dump cable for it. Here’s what would get me excited:

  • One fee for a service that’s available on PC, smartphone, TV (through something like a Roku box), and iPad
  • Not just prime-time entertainment but news, too (sports would also be a plus)
  • A treasure trove of episodes of old shows–including stuff they don’t play on cable and don’t put out on DVD

I’d pay $10 a month for that–heck, I’d pay a lot more than that if it were the TV service of my dreams.

How about you?


7 comments

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  1. Esteban April 23, 2010 at 11:28 am #

    I’d pay for it, but only if the premium service was commercial free.

  2. Anonymous April 23, 2010 at 12:17 pm #

    Here’s my list of criteria they would have to meet before I’d even consider it:

    – Live stream of The Weather Channel, live sports, and MSNBC
    – Commercial-free viewing
    – More selection for the money than Netflix (which is also $10/mo)
    – Host complete archives of the shows they host
    – One plan, one flat rate with no a la carte charges for select content
    – Better integration with set-top boxes and consoles
    – Open it up to Boxee
    – More foreign content, for example the BBC
    – More selection of older shows, not just what the Big Four (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX) broadcast for free

  3. Craig April 23, 2010 at 10:33 pm #

    if i can watch the sports i want, live, on my phone, then i’m in for sure!

  4. Ivan Wu April 25, 2010 at 7:32 pm #

    I doubt they’d get it to be as low as 10$/month without some advertisement revenue…but we can dream can’t we?

  5. heulenwolf April 26, 2010 at 2:13 pm #

    Hulu has some technical and interface hurdles to get over before it makes sense as a paid service. At the moment, its a good compliment to live TV but its not a good replacement for these reasons:
    1) Finding new content: What’s the Hulu equivalent of flipping channels? I guess that scroll across the top of the top 10 featured videos is something but its not as discoverable. As awful as the cable billing system is, if you know you’re a nature buff, for example, chances are the Discovery channel has something for you. If not, you can quickly flip to other channels to see if anything of interest is available. Searching Hulu is rather hit or miss.
    2) Buffering: I have a sufficiently fast internet ISP (10 Mbits down) and a fast enough system to playback the video in Hulu’s “HD” without skipping assuming Hulu can serve it to me at speed. Nonetheless, I’m often treated to skipping video and buffering screens mid-show. I can tell they’re not due to my ISP because while I’m waiting for the buffer I sometimes try other websites and they fly like normal. The connection to my router is wired Gb Ethernet, so its not a WiFi issue, either. Furthermore, I always get the buffering delay when I start watching something (which gets in the way of #1, again). Standard TV provides nearly instant tune-in which Hulu can’t currently match.
    3) More Content: The limitations on which shows are available and the limited number of episodes of those shows optimizes Hulu for catching up on shows you already know are on Hulu and who’s past few episodes you’ve missed. Its certainly no archive of TV content. Once I find something new I like, I want to go back to the beginning and watch in order. That’s only possible on Hulu if the show just started a few episodes ago.
    4) Computer focused: Sure, if you want to engage in the Boxee vs Hulu arms race, you can sometimes get Hulu on a non-computer device. I went a rather expensive route and got an LCD TV several years ago that works well with the DVI output from my Mac Mini. I still need a keyboard and mouse to watch Hulu. They need to copy Boxee’s idea for the keyboard on the remote and get rid of the need for a pointing device to make it accessible with a Boxee-Box-like set-top box. Put TV back on the TV. That will be a hard transition to pull off without then alienating existing viewers who currently watch on their computer.
    If they can address all those problems, then Hulu becomes more than a hobby of Steve Jobs or an experiment of some reluctant TV execs – they’re better than cable and they’re worth a few bucks.

    To further their challenge, the best ISP option for many broadband customers, such as myself, is cable internet. They often throw basic cable in with broadband for free or offer a discount for combining services. I wouldn’t save very much by turning off my cable TV service because I’d be paying almost the same amount to Cox just for broadband. So, they have to solve all those problems without charging much more than the proposed $10/month or my bill will actually be higher.

  6. bla June 13, 2010 at 8:43 am #

    if you are willing to pay for it now then in two years the question will be if your willing to pay slightly more with the introduction of more commercials. people seem to forget that cable was at one time commercial free and much cheaper than the bill you pay now. the idea of paying more to have more than thirty standard cable channels was unheard of. this is found in all forms of a profit influenced ordeal. what you may not realize 2 is that hulu makes money from advertisements and commercials and all video that is displayed airs on tv first and is only displayed on hulu when the publisher decides to put it up, then it is displayed for a limited time and is eventually deleted from the website

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