While *News Corp*. COO Chase Carey, *NBC Universal* CEO Jeff Zucker and others have been out touting the desire to charge for some content through their Hulu JV, Hulu has been working out the logistics for doing just that. StreamingMedia.com’s report that a subscription beta test is underway internally would fit with Hulu’s long-term plans — but a source familiar with the situation insists to paidContent that the company isn’t conducting such a test. (The source also stressed, as noted below, that anything Hulu does will be incremental, not a change in strategy.) Two points to keep in mind:
– Premium content (revenue streams like subscriptions, downloads, rentals) has been part of the business plan all along. We’re talking when and how, not if.
– This is not about slamming a paywall down on Hulu content. Even if that’s what News Corp (NYSE: NWS). and NBCU wanted (which I have no reason to believe is the case), Bob Iger, the CEO of new JV partner Disney (NYSE: DIS), has been quite vocal about his desire to keep some content available. In a significant speech at the National Cable Show addressing “TV Everywhere” and various authentication plans, Iger said Disney would look at anything that helps cable, including streaming full networks online, but not in putting all programming behind a subscription wall — specifically ABC. He said making ABC subscription-only would be “anti-consumer.” But Iger is no foe of subscriptions; he wants a Disney movie subscription site, for instance, and was first in line to sell downloads of prime-time shows and movies on iTunes.
Hulu can offer a number of options beyond walling off content that’s already available: make whole seasons of content available (most shows are limited to a certain number of “trailing” episodes, ad-free access, downloads, access to programming that otherwise wouldn’t be available, and more.