Without Better Video Quality, Hulu’s Subscription Service Won’t Be Successful
It seems every few months the blogsphere gets all worked up whenever a report comes out saying that Hulu's going to offer a subscription based model. Frankly, I don't see why it continues to get so much press as we already know Hulu plans to offer a subscription service. The company has already confirmed that it has been part of their plans from day one. Until they actually release it in the market, how many times can you write about or speculate on the same topic? While today's report from the LA Times says the price will be $9.95 a month, the real debate should be what kind of quality consumers expect when paying for online video.
Of course, for any subscription based service, the inventory of content that's available is important. But there is no way consumers are going to pay for content on Hulu unless the company offers a better level of video quality with the subscription. That may be their plan, offer HD quality and use that as an incentive for people to pay for a better experience. But if Hulu doesn't offer content in at least 720p, users aren't going to pay to get the same poor Hulu video quality that exists today. Hulu's encoding only supports up to 480p and full-screen does not look great. I always get lots of stuttering, pixelation in scenes with fast movement and quite a bit of buffering. As we've see with other successful subscription offerings like MLB.com or the NFL.com, content needs to encoded at 2+Mbps, be available in at least 720p HD quality, and provide a very good quality of service.
Unless Hulu plans to add at least 720p support for their subscription service and make the user experience much better, they have no shot at charging anything for access to their content.