The free ride at Hulu may be coming to a close.Hulu2

Chase Carey, deputy chairman at News Corp. (which owns part
of the online streaming service), dropped a major hint that the Website could
begin charging for content as early as next year.

“It’s time to start getting paid for broadcast content
online,” he told Broadcast & Cable. “I think a free model is a very
difficult way to capture the value of our content. I think what we need to do
is deliver that content to consumers in a way where they will appreciate the
value. Hulu concurs with that, it needs to evolve to have a meaningful
subscription model as part of its business.”

The upside here for consumers is he doesn’t see a pay wall
going up around the entire site. Instead, he pictures special features (such
as, say, unaired “American Idol” auditions) as the best place to begin testing
a pay model.

It’s a risky strategy. Online audiences have finally started
to show a willingness to view ads with television programming after years of
resistance. Asking them to begin paying more to watch elements of shows they
can watch for free at home will be a bigger hurdle – and could steer some of
the audience back to the pirate sites Hulu has been drawing people away from. 

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