Stop Whining About Hulu

This is representative of recent posts regarding Hulu’s future; folks seem quite put out that Hulu will probably start charging for some or all of it’s content in the near future.

Get over yourselves. Really.

The article above is typical, lamenting the sheer effrontery of Hulu to consider charging. What, does Hulu not offer anything of value?

Now, I’ll be the first to admit, a lot is going to depend on what Hulu charges. If they go for $5/month for content which is new within the last 30 days and everything else is free, then it’s a no-brainer. If they go for $25/month with up to 5 shows, I’ll be moving on.

If it is somewhere in between, I’ll have to think about it.

I’m might be a bit atypical for Hulu; I have a media computer with an HDMI connection to my DLP HD set, and I watch all my Hulu on the TV, not on a laptop or desktop computer, always fullscreen We use Hulu as a backup for our ancient-but-beloved Series 2 TiVo; lately that pattern has reversed, with stuff going to TiVo but being watched on Hulu and just deleted from the TiVo. (As an aside, I’ll never give up a TiVo in the house; their KidZone parental controls are simply fabulous, and none the the Cable boxen can come close.)

My Netflix account is probably a good barometer. We have the lowest end account, $9/month, rarely actually watch the single DVD which shows up (Baby Mama has sat here for a month), but we stream stuff all the time. I suspect I would value Hulu similarly.

Hulu lost $33 million last year. Hard for me to say they need to keep giving things away. But what are they selling?

Really, the value of what they have is related to the live performance element of the shows they have.

No, I am not talking about only charging for live shows.

What I mean is, the value of an episode drops precipitously after it initially airs. The initial airing of an episode is akin to a live performance by a singer — it has value much higher than the repeats years later (or the CD in the case of a singer). Those season 1 episodes of Angel are nice to have, but I won’t pay for 10 year old TV episodes, unless I can buy the rights to an entire series, to watch when I want to, and loan out to friends.

But I will pay for the right to watch Fringe, Grey’s Anatomy, Stargate: SGU, Modern Family, etc. Because our house follows those shows. But I will only pay if I get to watch them within 24 hours of when they air.

Sorry, that’s how it is.

And that is precisely the wedge the content producers have in between consumers and piracy. I ditched my Apple TV because the price structure for TV episodes sucked; I didn’t want to buy anything, I just wanted to rent it for an hour. $2/episode was too much. It became easier to torrent the episodes. But if I can pay a small, digestible fee for the right to watch what I want, when I want, I’ll delete uTorrent right now.

Oh, and the cable companies’ TV Everywhere idea, where I have the right to view shows on channels I already subscribe to via my cable system? It’s possibly a good idea. As long as their approach is “What can we give the consumer that we didn’t used to be able to give them?” as opposed “How much can we soak these morons for?”, it will be a win. I’m not hopeful.

Stop whining about Hulu charging. Hulu provides value in the form of access to first-run television episodes. You think they should do it free?

Go do your job for free for a while, then whine about Hulu.

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