Hulu, New York Times Take Bold Steps By Charging For Content

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Deep down, we all knew this would happen. Our favorite television shows and news articles for free – anywhere, anytime, forever? It just sounded too good to be true. And it was.

Hulu is leading the charge in a trend that will surely be implemented by websites that provide free episodes of television programs. In an effort generate revenue, Hulu plans on placing a price tag on popular shows such as “Modern Family,” “House,” and “30 Rock.” This is quite a development — not just for Hulu but for online content in general, across the globe. Just ask the New York Times.[more]

For months Hulu carefully and deliberately studied its viewers, hoping to “strike a balance” between what content should be free versus which content it could charge for. A subscription plan will be released in the next six months, but until then, options are being debated. One would allow viewers to watch the five most recent episodes of a television show for free, but charge them $4.99 each month to watch any older episodes. Though viewers may not initially like the change — and who would, when currently everything is free — Hulu sees this evolution as a necessary move to be competitive in the future.

“The whole reason Hulu needs to consider a subscription model is that the long-term play for online video is not to computers; it’s to a collection of other devices — connected TVs, video game consoles,” said Forrester Research media analyst James McQuivey.

But these changes aren’t specific to television programming and Hulu. News must change too, or die. The New York Times recently announced that it would begin setting a price on its articles. Starting in 2011, visitors can view a minimum amount of content for free before paying a fee with unlimited access.

Surprisingly, readers were generally supportive of the Time’s plans. In fact, thousands e-mailed editors or posted comments on the newspaper’s website demonstrating their interest in the future viability of the venerable brand and its efforts to survive in a toxic environment for print publications. The future, however, is uncertain. The Times carried out a similar move from 2005 to 2007 with its Times Select online subscription arrangement that charged readers for particular columns and editorial content.

The strategy ultimately failed.

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