News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch said during a conference call yesterday that he plans to charge for all online content associated with his newspaper and TV properties. “We intend to charge for all our news web sites,” The Financial Times quoted him as saying. “If we’re successful, we’ll be followed by all media.”
What does this vague declaration means for Hulu, the free premium content portal partly owned by News Corp.’s FOX? Hulu’s free, ad-supported model has been sniped at over the past few months from its three network owners. In July, Bob Iger, CEO Disney, said that online audiences would pay for quality content and gave his own ambiguous plans for a Disney subscription site. And previously, NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker has said that a subscription service on Hulu was a possibility.
While there isn’t much concrete behind these grand CEO visions at this point, you have to wonder if Hulu will get the squeeze as paid content gets a second wind and “free” falls out of favor as networks look to boost their bottom line. Already you’ve seen Hulu’s network overlords exert their influence on the company by imposing delayed windows on certain content and allowing just a limited number of episodes available at any given time. Will they just winnow away at Hulu until it’s a husk of its former self?
Interestingly, both Murdoch and Iger have also bashed the cable companies’ TV Everywhere plans. According to the Financial Times, Murdoch dubbed TV Everywhere a “defensive” strategy and said that News Corp. would develop an “offensive” one. Just what an “offensive” strategy would be is unknown (though the image of Jack Bauer the Fox & Friends crew breaking into your home and taking money out of your wallet comes to mind). Previously, Iger has said he was open-minded, but had a “healthy amount of skepticism” about authentication plans.