Zoot Alors, Hulu may have decided to end the “free lunch” for users, and instead start providing paid for content. There’s no word on if it’ll be an across the board change, or if it’s going to be for the iPad only, but it’s starting to look like Hulu wants to get a mobile subscription model up and running.

It’s turning into a bit of a messy situation, and it might include reclassifying the iPad as a “mobile device”, along side its iPhone counterpart. Peter Kafka, of All Things D fame, has noted that “broadcast owners–GE’s (GE) NBC Universal, News Corp.’s (NWS) Fox and Disney’s (DIS) ABC–have repeatedly said they want to introduce some sort of premium version.” It’d certainly be a smart move for the broadcasters, but would users really be willing to start paying for Hulu?  What would a premium service have to include for it to be worth the money?

Is it a case of just not getting it?

What makes Hulu successful? Is it the content, or is it the fact that the content is free? It’s probably a little bit of both, but the fact that users can get their shows on demand (pretty much) for free is a huge plus for the service. People have flocked to the website for that reason alone. They’re willing to sit through the ads just so they can have access to the experience that Hulu provides. That’s Hulu’s golden ticket, and turning around and changing that delivery model is going to be a tough sell. Consumers don’t like the bait and switch approach, and what Hulu’s doing could certainly be classified as such if the end goal is to completely convert to a subscription based model instead of an advertising model.

If Hulu decides to provide a “premium” experience that goes beyond their current services and still provide the classic model that they’ve built their follow on, then they’ll have a standing chance, and probably convert some people along the way. If it becomes an entire subscription model approach, people will resort to the same practices they were using before Hulu came along–torrenting TV shows for free.

Via Cult of Mac