Hulu.com: Getting Closer to Anywhere TVWednesday, April 9, 2008 9:25
A few weeks ago, Hulu.com made its move from being privately tested to open to the public. Hulu.com is a video site. Video sites come and go on a daily basis. What makes this one special?
Hulu.com is the combine efforts of various television networks and movie studios to compete with the YouTube and YouTube look-a-likes. One of the major struggles between major networks and video content sites is the control of copyrighted content. People want to be able to post clips and mash ups of their favorite shows whereas networks want to make money from their copyrighted material. If the networks can’t control the content, how can they monetize on the material?
Hulu.com makes its money from advertisements, similar to TV commercials. Each time you view a video, it’s preceded by a commercial, and if the video is long enough, may have commercial breaks. What makes these commercials tolerable, is the fact that there is a count down timer showing the amount of time left in the commercial. Oh, and while you can fast forward and rewind the videos, you cannot do so during commercials. New text/picture based sponsors are appearing on the site but I don’t find these intrusive either.
At the time of its public launch, Hulu.com had been populated with a wide variety of clips, complete TV episodes and a few movies. Even now it continues to amass more episodes and movies as it acquires additional distribution rights. Additionally, Hulu.com has a plan for adding new episodes to the series it hosts. Each new episode is added after it plays in Hawaii.
Access to new TV shows is an instant plus, there is another clear win here as well. Hulu.com is also populating its service with older shows. I’ve really enjoyed watching some episodes from shows I watched when I was a kid, such as Airwolf and The A-Team. If I had wanted to watch these elsewhere, I would need to buy each season or rent it. I would much rather watch the commercials rather than dishing out any money to see these shows.
Hulu.com has implemented this media content site very well. The ease of use and quality of content is very compelling. However, having controlled content does have its risks. The site is only populated with content approved by the cooperating networks and movie studios. Users are unable to add their own mash-ups and mixes to the site. Additionally, Hulu.com needs to weed through the red tape in order to add new/vintage content. This takes time.
The features available in Hulu.com seem to run along the same lines as any other media distribution site. It allows you to rate episodes and movies. Streamed videos can be seen as is, in a separate box or even full-screen. Likewise, preferred content can be distributed to social groups via e-mail or some other popular social networking sites such as Facebook, StumbleUpon and Digg. Users may also create play lists of videos they wish to watch. All these features look great, but there are no new innovations.
One of the features I wish to see developed relates to RSS. (If you’re unsure what I mean by RSS, have a look at this article I wrote.) In this instance, I found as I looked at the “Recently Added” and “Most Popular” categories for TV Episodes (not clips) and Movies, there was a friendly RSS symbol in my browser. I thought to myself: “How neat! Perhaps I can subscribe to feeds to specific TV Shows. Or, see when new Movies are posted.” Alas, I was disheartened. While the pages of these areas offer specific information I was looking for, the RSS Feeds are not as granular. Meaning, if I subscribed to the Recently Added Movies feed, I received a feed that listed all new content as it was added. Movies would be mixed in with newly added TV Shows and Clips.
Overall, Hulu.com is impressive with a vast amount of potential. This is the way TV was meant to be. The content should fit around the peoples schedule rather than the other way around. Now, just get it to stream to my XBOX360 and I will be ecstatic!
UPDATE: Thank you to Ilya, a software engineer at Hulu, for an insightful comment.