Execs Mulling Subscription Model For Hulu

YouTube gets very excited

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Jonathan Miller, the new chief digital officer for News Corp., wants to see Hulu become a pay site. In fact, Miller thinks Web companies are going to have to find a way to charge for what they used to give away for free.

Speaking from a couple of different venues this week, Miller expressed his desire to make Hulu content available on a subscription basis. He also seems to have soured on ad-supported business models. 

You may remember Miller from his days as CEO of AOL. He was made CEO in 2002, right around the time AOL Time Warner’s market cap had gone so far south penguins could be seen out the window. Miller oversaw 21 percent annual profit growth at AOL via online advertising.

His last year, 2006, was a big year for AOL, though. That was the year the company was hauled in front of the California legislature for its apparent intention to charge bulk emailers a per-email fee. Right after that fiasco, as AOL was hemorrhaging dial-up subscribers, came the infamous “call,” where retention bonuses led a phone rep to ignore a subscriber’s demand to cancel. It didn’t end though—2006 was rough for AOL, like how 2008 was rough for banks—and the AOL Data Valdez leaked millions of search queries traceable to the original searcher onto the Web.

Though Miller made one right move that year to save his sinking-fast ship by opening up an ad-supported AOL for free and discarding overpriced and outdated business models, it was too late after all the trouble that year, and Miller was booted. So one supposes he’s not going to make the “mistake” of free content again—the last time he did, he got fired.

Besides, News Corp. also owns lots of newspapers, and it wouldn’t look so good if their shiny new Web-exec didn’t share the company’s desire to charge for every single thing it possibly can.

Funny how getting a new job changes a person’s perspective on sustainable business models, especially among former AOL executives. All it took for Michael Lynton, former CEO of AOL Europe, to realize nothing good had come from the Internet was to land a job as CEO of Sony Pictures.

I’ve never been interviewed for a CEO position at a mega-multinational corporate content provider before, but I bet the first question is, “How do you feel about free stuff on the Internet?”

If you answer, “Puh, puh! I hate the Internet! Buncha freeloaders,” you’re in for sure.     

Bygones. But if Miller and News Corp. want to sink Hulu faster than Bill Clinton sinks a cigar, then anchoring it down with a subscription wall should do the trick.

Execs Mulling Subscription Model For Hulu
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  • http://inchoo.net Toni Anicic

    It will be interesting to see the outcome of this business model. Many have tried to do this but failed.

  • http://www.5stonesconsulting.com Dean

    in it’s current format —- their movie selection is lame and the TV clips and shows that people love are available elsewhere – don’t mess with a good thing…

    now, if Hulu was able to provide a HUGE back catalog of old tv shows and a HUGE selection of old and new movies — they might be able to get $5 bucks a month or less —

    but without drastic content upgrades, HULU would drop like a rock by charging money, very very very few websites that provide free content are able to launch pay sites.

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