With the news this week that Hulu is up for sale, I just can’t help but wonder if we won’t be writing the service’s obituary in the not so distant future.
Launched in March of 2008, Hulu seemed like the perfect solution for the networks that owned a chunk of the programming as well as the service. The networks would be able to repurpose content they already owned to sell it against completely separate advertising. This would reduce costs on those shows, and hopefully set up a nice little revenue stream of extra cash coming in.
The problem is, I don’t think they 1) expected Netflix to take off the way it has or 2) that it would take so long to get advertisers to take them seriously.
Revenue has been a huge issue at Hulu, and it is only this year that the company is looking at pulling in $500 million. Considering the quality of content that the site has to work with, it shouldn’t have taken them nearly this long to get that sort of number. True, the site launched in 2008, and three years is respectable, but when your talking about almost all of the major networks in the country, they should have gotten there sooner.
There was also the issue that they really dragged their feet on allowing you to watch the service on your TV. While Netflix was cramming their software into every nook and cranny of entertainment hardware, Hulu waited for the launch of its Hulu Plus pay service to get to work on this essential building block for a streaming service.
While it is certainly too early to declare Hulu dead, as I implied with my headline, I do fear for its future. The potential licensing costs for anyone else to carry the same content is mind boggling, and I just don’t know if there is anyone out there who is going to be willing to lay out the money it’s going to take to keep this a real going concern. You can be sure the networks cut Hulu some pretty sweet deals on the licensing, but will they be as generous with a third-party owner? Only time will tell.
So, lets take a look back at their first television commercial and remember when Hulu was so filled with promise.