I’ve been following the development of Hulu Plus since before I had these digs — check past pieces here, here, here, here and here — and here we are, June of 2010 and there’s still no access to the supposed version of our favorite streaming video web site that we have to pay for.
So again, I point to my headline. Should Hulu be in more of a hurry to release its monetization plans?
A Bloomberg article from earlier this week suggests that Hulu is in talks with the few media companies that don’t already have ownership in it like Viacom, CBS Corp and Time Warner in some sort of preparation for a pay-for version. On one hand, this seems like yet another small step on the road to turning Hulu into the preeminent video streaming service — topping Netflix — but on the other, the article itself mentions that Hulu has had “off and on” conversations with these other groups since the beginning.
If we go back to April, the LA Times leaked the Hulu Plus developments, but no one from Hulu ever acknowledged that it was completely true. Then, earlier this month a Reuters story again reported the pay models and also noted that Hulu would be expanding to devices as well. Again, from sources, no official confirmation. I’m not saying that means anything, but it seems odd to me that there’s been little official chatter on the matter over the last two months. Heck, in between the original LA Times break and the Reuters story, All Things Digital’s Peter Kakfa urged that people who were waiting to pay for Hulu should just keep on waiting because it wasn’t coming anytime soon.
So as media outlets continue to get information from “sources” on what’s happening with Hulu, nothing is actually being confirmed. Meanwhile, Hulu’s popularity is slowly shrinking. The growth curve is flattening out. The Bloomberg story notes that the site averaged 12.2 million viewers in March and 13.1 million viewers in April, down slightly from 14.1 million in February. That story also claims that said drop could be a result of losing Viacom products The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Those developments are barely troubling, sure.
Probably a bigger concern for the Hulu brass? They have to renew all the contracts with media producers like NBC, FOX and ABC by the end of 2011. While that seems like a long time away, I’m guessing those companies are looking at Hulu with the expectations that it will provide them more eyes and more revenue before then. If Hulu cannot do that, surely the fees from the networks and media companies will go up. That’s not great news.
I know there’s this underlying concern that people won’t pay for Hulu and it’s a totally valid one. Moreover, with all sorts of balls in the air and masters to serve, I get the feeling that Hulu feels like it has to knock it out of the park with whatever is coming, so they’re putting an otherworldly amount of time and money into it. But as visits drop (and so do the ad revenues), speculation continues and Hulu remains silents, perhaps more seeds of doubt are planted in the minds of users and media companies. What then, Hulu? Why not at least confirm something and give a possible date (even a season, like spring 2011)?