Maybe charging for Hulu will work

When I reported last week that Jon Miller, News Corp.'s new chief digital officer, thinks it's only a matter of time before Hulu becomes (at least partially) a subscription service, the response it generated was overwhelming -- and overwhelmingly negative. "If Hulu wants to charge, I'll just go elsewhere" wrote one of you readers in a comment that was fairly typical of the 80-plus that post generated.

But maybe the "no pay, no way" crowd are just a vocal minority? Paid Content reports today on a new study from Bernstein Research analyst Jeffrey Lindsay, who surveyed hundreds of consumers to determine their attitudes toward internet TV.

A majority of respondents told Lindsay they would be willing to pay for professionally created entertainment content delivered over the internet -- although not, crucially, for user-generated content of the sort that populates YouTube. Survey-takers said they'd shell out up to $1 for a TV episode and $5 for a movie -- less than iTunes charges, but more than the $0 users of peer-to-peer services like Bittorrent pay for the same.

On the other hand, what people say they'll do and what they'll actually do are two different things -- and what they say they'll do varies depending on how you phrase the question. More than three-quarters of respondents in an Engadget poll said they wouldn't pay a penny to get Hulu on their televisions.

Nevertheless, Mediapost's Steve Robinson thinks a pay model holds promise for Hulu:

[A] subscription model or platform change works if you offer the consumer something he or she wants but can't get anywhere else, or you provide benefits of such significance that a consumer's marginal utility increases more than any incremental cost. If we apply these teachings to Internet-delivered video, we realize today's Internet video subscriptions or "for pay" video offerings make sense for (1) premium content that isn't readily available on television, (2) premium content that is far superior because of platform features or quality, and (3) premium content that is more conveniently obtained because of the platform. . . . Hulu and others on the Internet are certainly on their way to achieving the "for pay" value proposition.
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