If the third time truly is a a charm, this one should do it for online video catch-up site Hulu. The site--for the third time since October--is reported to be launching a hybrid pay-per-view service as early as May 24, reports the L.A. Times. But there are some pretty big gates it plans to leave open to allow viewers free access to some shows. The news has been expected since an executive with one of its three parent companies--New Corp.--in October let slip that a pay service likely was coming early in 2010.
Viewers will still be able to watch the first five shows of recent hits like "Glee," "Fringe," and "Lost," for free, but if they want more they'll have to register for Hulu Plus, and pay $9.95 a month. The Times in a January Company Town column suggested a hybrid free/pay plan was in the works. At the time, it was reported Hulu's masters were looking at charging $4.99 a month, the most they believed that a catch-up service would be worth to viewers with a line up that really hasn't been fleshed out yet. Hulu, said the Times, wanted to have at least 20 series ready to offer.
A few of big questions remain:
- Will $9.95 bring enough revenue in to satisfy Hulu's parent companies--News Corp., NBC Universal and Disney?
- Will consumers see Hulu's proposal interesting enough to pay for it?
- Will Hulu ever actually launch its service?
- Will it survive the eventual merger of Comcast and NBCU, and Comcast's own TV Everywhere solution, Xfinity?
- And, will it ever be available Flash-free on Apple's iPad, (that's a whole other set of rumors)?
- Hulu also recently has been rumored to be working on a Flash-free app that will allow it on Apple's iPad. Maybe that's next.
- see this Times report
Pay Hulu on the way as early as 2010, says News Corp. exec
Rumor mill redux: Hulu's going pay-per-view
Hulu developing subscription model app for Apple's iPad
Hulu scores deal with the NFL Network for online video
Hulu's sales force cutting ad prices to beat competition: ABC, NBC, Disney
Would NBCU-Comcast deal make Hulu pay-per-view?