News Corp. and Hulu have been talking a lot about ways they could charge for Hulu content of late. But two months into 2010, we have little word on how that will come to fruition (except a rumor that iPad users will have to pay to watch Hulu). Well, video upstart Boxee has a few ideas.
Last month the digital video provider announced plans to charge for its content. And today, Beet.TV has a video of Boxee CEO Avner Ronen explaining some of the details.
If anything, maybe this could help Hulu open up and let Boxee have access to its video again.
Until this month, Boxee had been streaming Hulu videos to its customers television sets. Hulu cut off ties to Boxee at the insistence of some of its content providers. This was despite the fact that Boxee brought the video site 100,000 views in the last week they were allowed to stream Hulu content to television sets.
But if Hulu is going to start charging to put its content on different devices (as the iPad rumors suggest) or if cable providers want to provide their own devices (as news this week suggests), giving Boxee free access could be problematic. That's too bad. Aside from bringing in extra page views, Boxee has some good idea on charging for video content.
The company's announcement in January gave some good clues about charging for online video. Namely, that videos that cost money should have new content. From the company's blog:
"We plan to release a Payment Platform this summer where users will be able to make purchases with one click on the remote. The content partners we launch with will offer shows, movies and channels that were previously not available to Boxee users. The content owners will be able to package and price as they wish, including pay-per-view and subscription. Content partners will have the flexibility to decide what they make available, whether it’s premium content, content from their existing library, or extras that will never make it 'on air.'"
By leaving it up to the content providers to choose a payment level, Boxee will remain more impartial in providing content and leave it up to creators to choose their price points. They'll take a cut of the proceeds (apparently muss less than the standard 30% at the iTunes store).
The platform already charges for some content — namely Netflix films and live Major League Baseball games — and going forward, the company is going to stick with the micropayment model.
According to Ronen:
"We announced a payent platform that ...for consumers, one time you put in your billing information. And as you browse across Boxee, if you come across stuff that requires payment, it's going to be one click for you.
For content owners, they can package and price content however they want.... it gives them control over the experience... and hopefully that will make more content available to Boxee users."
Moreover, Ronen has comforting words for the networks:
"I don't think paid content is a curse word for users. I think that users will be willing to pay for content as long as they value it."
And good news for Hulu directly, he talks about what he thinks consumers want to pay for:
"I think they'll pay for sports, I think they'll pay for movies... TV shows... and niche content that is driving a deeper experience. Exposing content that is today otherwise not accessible."
There's no proof that Hulu will listen to Boxee's advice. The rumored plan to charge for Hulu access on the iPad would be misguided if it came to fruition. Consumers aren't likely to pay to access content they can get for free elsewhere. But if Hulu can get new shows and provide new value and new niches for consumers, that could be a winning strategy.
And perhaps — though this is a long shot — if Boxee gives Hulu enough good ideas about charging for content, they'll let Boxee have access to Hulu videos again.