wrote in to point out the rumors doing the rounds today that Hulu is getting ready to launch a paid subscription service
, something that's popped up before
. Apparently Hulu is looking to offer the five most recent episodes of a show for free, then will charge $10 a month for access to older episodes. There aren't a ton of details, so it's not clear exactly how the plan will play out. But we can say this: unless Hulu is adding some real value for users, and not just putting currently free content behind a paywall, it's doomed to failure. It's pretty clear that some of Hulu's corporate overlords
think all of its content should be behind a paywall. But erecting a paywall will simply drive Hulu users to unauthorized downloads and streams, delivering those content providers absolutely nothing. All too often these paywalls are based on the idea that once users have nowhere else to go, they'll start paying; the reality is, though, there's always somewhere else to go
Hulu's success thus far has been by attracting users with a good choice of content presented in a good interface, reflecting something of an understanding that the way to compete with free, unauthorized content is to offer users something better. It's already started to undermine some of its success by blocking certain browsers
in an attempt to force users to only access its content (and its advertising) through means of which it approves, and the paywall represents yet another step towards replacing a product that's better than unauthorized content with one that's worse. In any case, when online streaming TV shows are already pulling in some high ad rates
, does it make any sense at all for Hulu to start throwing up paywalls?