Contrary to widespread web reports, the wildly popular TV and movies streaming website Hulu is not planning to start charging for all its content — although you would certainly be forgiven for thinking so. On Oct. 21, a high-ranking exec. at News Corp., which owns Hulu along with NBC Universal and Disney, told a trade conference that “a free model is a very difficult way to capture the value of [Hulu’s] content,” positing that the site could start charging as early as 2010. That was enough to get the web all Twitterpated about Hulu’s entire beloved catalog falling behind a dreaded paywall.
A source close to Hulu, however, tells EW that the site remains steadfastly committed to free content, explaining that any possible subscription or pay-per-view service has no set timeline and would only build upon what Hulu offers, not replace it. Of course, this isn’t the first time an executive from News Corp. (like, say, chairman Rupert Murdoch) has openly speculated about getting people to pay for at least some stuff on Hulu — and why wouldn’t they? Media companies were built in the 20th century by collecting money from a variety of sources and audiences — ads on broadcast TV, box office ticket sales, premium cable subscription fees, DVD purchases — so it makes sense that they would pursue the same strategy for the 21st century. Of course, given how swiftly the web masses react to even a hint that they’d actually have to pay for something on the internet, pretty much any venture in that direction in this brave, new, digital-only world is going to be an exercise in taking a step onto a vast sheet of ice and hoping it doesn’t crack wide open.