Paid Hulu is almost here

We’ve been hearng about the possibility of premium Hulu for almost a year, but the online video site may finally have a subscription service in place by the end of May.

Hulu, which shows television shows and movies from Fox, Disney and NBC, along with some music videos, has been free and ad-supported since its inception. The Los Angeles Times cites unnamed sources who say a paid version of Hulu, dubbed “Hulu Plus,” will start testing by May 24.

Premium users will pay $9.95 per month for full access to Hulu’s archives, including shows such as “Lost,” “Arrested Development” and “30 Rock.” That’s $5 more per month than the Times previously reported, when the plan was in its early stages.

Paid Hulu is almost here

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The free site will include only the five most recent episodes of each show, still supported by ads. In fact, the amount of ads shown on Hulu could balloon over time, as the Times says “Hulu is expected to adopt the same commercial loads as network television.” The Times’ report doesn’t say whether Hulu Plus subscribers will have to watch ads as well.

Here’s my problem with the plan as it stands: It doesn’t offer anything significantly different than what you already get now. With Lost, for example, you’re free to watch every archived episode, though you are restricted to the last five episodes of the current season. Hulu Plus would essentially take away all those archives unless you pay up. That’s a bitter pill to swallow, and it’s not going to go over well.

Hulu Plus really needs more shows, from studios that don’t already broadcast their content for free over the air, but that won’t be easy. As All Things D points out, the costs will likely be too high after Hulu pays back the studios. Besides, other providers might not be so interested, given that Viacom already yanked “The Daily Show,” “The Colbert Report” and other Comedy Central content from the site.

I love Hulu — it’s invaluable when you miss an episode of your favorite show, or want to watch some late night comedy shows on a different schedule — but I’m afraid that Hulu Plus could be its jump the shark moment.

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