The LA Times reports that Hulu may start testing a subscription service as soon as May 24.
According to the LA times article, $9.95 a month will buy a subscription to to Hulu Plus. Hulu Plus users will have access to more comprehensive selection of the past episodes of popular TV shows. Regular Hulu users will continue to have access to the last five episodes broadcast.
This is a great idea. Hulu came out with an innovative product which has turned out to be amazingly popular. Indeed, Hulu use is especially common among young people like me – many of whom have never owned a TV. However, Hulu has had some difficulty generating significant profit. Alternate business models are great, especially when they allow users to pay to get more (rather than giving them less unless they pay up). This idea certainly fits the bill, and is definitely a move in the right direction.
I would love to give Hulu $10 per month for better service. I think that $5-$15 is the right price point. It’s an amount that’s affordable even to an impoverished college student – one of Hulu’s major market segments. There are lots of things that Hulu could do to improve my experience, and full back catalogue support is certainly one of them. However, I don’t think that offer currently on the table would give users enough bang for their buck.
At the very least Hulu needs to offer an ad-free experience. Hulu doesn’t maximise the profit available from their advertising slots – many are given away to charity for free. It’s been suggested that Hulu struggles to fill half of its ad slots, and this certainly jibes with my experiences. Hulu’s internal accounting is not publicly available, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they could make a straight profit from an ad-free subscription user.
There are other features that are critically missing from Hulu. Subscription revenue would be a great opportunity to add these to the lineup, rounding out their product. Hulu has no app available for any of the major mobile platforms. This is surely something that users would like to see. It’s currently impossible to meaningfully cache or store Hulu shows for offline viewing. For users with slow or intermittent internet access this could be a lifesaver. Likewise, I’m sure that the ability to use one’s Hulu account while travelling abroad would be invaluable. With the residency verification that subscriptions provide, we could at last see this as a possibility.
Have other ideas about how to make Hulu Plus a winner? Let me know in the comments.