Disney’s EVP Kevin Mayer spoke at the DeSilva & Philips Dealmakers conference today, and though he said many things, it was his words about paid Hulu content through Hulu and Apple that have got us intrigued.
That’s because paid online content is a seriously hot topic at the moment, as various industries slowly wake up to the impact that widespread broadband Internet access, and 3G (and soon 4G) wireless, will have on their business models in the near future.
Disney’s never been one to shy away from the advances of computer tech in recent years, happily signing up with Apple’s iTunes right out of the starting blocks. And Disney, of course, is tightly wound up with Hulu via the Fox and NBC joint venture. So Mayer, who also had a big role in persuading his company to get on board with Hulu last year, is a man to listen to when it comes to proclamations about the future of the little disruptive TV-business shaking online service.
And according to Mayer, all the rumors about the Hulu Premium service are much too preemptive. Because though obviously the JV’s business planners are all over the matter, “no decisions have been made” by the execs over exactly how it’ll work. That means the questions over pay models and exactly what services a paid Hulu would offer haven’t been nailed down yet, and Mayer noted that there’s even no timetable in place. The most he’d admit apparently is that a paid content system will arrive at some point. Mayer even refused to comment on whether or not there’d be a Disney content tie-up with Apple.
Where does this leave us tech speculators? Actually, pretty much where we were beforehand. We know a paid model is coming for Hulu–it’s inevitable, as the site expands its services to the point it becomes a threat to other broadcasting systems. Nobody knew if it would be subscription-based, or selective pay-per-view, or when we’d have to start paying. It’s just good to hear an executive actually engaged in the process confirm all this, however vaguely.
What we can speculate is that a good time to swing in with paywalls is when Hulu goes HD. As more and more people get HDTVs, and HD content slips fully into the public consciousness, charging to access an HD Hulu stream would seem an easy, and value-for-money-delivering option, both from a consumer and corporate point of view. And as far as Disney-Apple dealings go: We’d never have learned anything from Mayer at the moment. Because talks are probably going on right as we speak, centered on the iPad, and there’s no way Mayer would jeopardize what could turn into an incredibly lucrative revenue stream–assuming the iPad will be as successful as it looks like it could be.