Would you pay to watch a cat lick himself?

You may be one of the people who has made the video “Finding Masculine Halloween Costumes For Your Effeminate Son” popular on YouTube. Or you, like thousands of others, may have watched “HOT REPORTER GETS HUMPED!! “ while strolling through the various offerings, but if YouTube asked you to pay to view these videos would you hit the play button?  I think not.  And I think that’s why the cry heard ‘round the internet this week was so deafening when Chase Carey, the Deputy Chairman of News. Corp — co-owners of Hulu – said they would be charging users  in 2010. I’m not comparing Hulu to YouTube in terms of offerings/content, but it is yet another destination on the  web that has made us accustomed to free on-line content; so much so that we’re declaring it an ‘inalienable right’ – otherwise why all the clamor?

In truth very few things are free. For example, there is no free TV.  If you want reception you at least have to pay for basic cable.  It you want original programming and movies with no commercial interruption you have to pay for a premium service. The same is true to varying degrees with the internet. We’re all paying, whether it’s for basic cable, an internet connection, WiFi, or a mobile device.  We pay because we want to be connected and we want to be entertained.

Hulu won’t be offering “The Cat That Licked Himself” for money or for free – that’s not their style.  Instead, they’ll continue to offer broadcast shows and movies for free, in addition, they’ll offer a premium service that you can choose to pay for or not.  The question I ask is will they take internet television to the next level the way premium cable channels have boosted cable?

When HBO first started their pay service it seemed like you could watch one of two things; the movie “The Jazz Singer” starring Neil Diamond, or live ball room dancing from a studio in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  It wasn’t much; in fact it was ridiculous to charge for it, but we purchased it in order to get cable reception.  Eventually premium cable gained subscribers by offering well scripted original programming you couldn’t find anywhere else.  Sex and the City,The Sopranos, Weeds, Dexter, The Tudors and Entourage to name a few.

Hulu already has an audience, and if they can deliver something new – they can capture the market.  Perhaps they’ll offer niche programming channels that are interactive or a new breed of branded web series.  The question isn’t whether they will morph and change, the question is what will they morph into. Call it change, call it growth, heck – call it capitalism.  Whatever you call it, I see it as a good thing for those of us that enjoy being entertained.

So the question remains.  When content hubs like Hulu or Fancast  or TV.com do morph and provide us with original, interactive programming we can’t get anywhere else will you pay?  I ask myself the same question and the answer is yes.  But I’m posing the question to you – Would you pay for Hulu and what type of service would they have to provide in order for you to whip out your credit card?