Hulu Plus fire sale? Even at $5 a month, questions about value remain

Hear that? It's the sound of Hulu Plus fading to dark. The "premium" service that Hulu launched this summer is struggling to attract customers with its $9.95-a-month price tag and it reportedly is looking at cutting the price in half, to $4.95 a month.

Hulu Plus was supposed to be the premium play that convinced its owners--News Corp., Walt Disney Co. and NBC Universal--that it was a viable over-the-top service that could not only make them money, but also could keep viewers from wandering away to other OTT options, ones content owners might have a tougher time monetizing. But consumers apparently haven't taken the plunge.

Hulu Plus, which promised more content in the form of a deeper catalog of TV episodes and movies to subscribers than the free Hulu service offers, as well as access across more devices, notably the iPad and smartphones, has been a bust.

Subscribers have been less than pleased at paying for content that still carries an ad load (can you say "cable TV?"), and that for the most part is already available on the free Hulu site. That could be why it remains in what feels like a perpetual state of beta... open "by invitation only."

As an OTT play, Hulu--or the big three that make decisions about what it can and can't do--has been somewhat less than welcoming to the OTT environment as a whole. Hulu content is accessible through neither Google TV nor Apple TV, two of the biggest-name players to come to market in recent months, although it does have a deal with Roku that's supposed to go live soon, so perhaps others will follow.

But, whether consumers will be willing to shell out even $5 a month is a question only time will tell. And, with rumors continuing to swirl about a $200 million to $300 million IPO planned for the company in 4Q2010, that's a big question that needs answering quickly.

For more:
- see this Wall Street Journal article

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