Hulu (or How to Fail Spectacularly)

by alphamonkey on December 6, 2007 · 12 comments

in Uncategorized

HuluAs you may or may not be aware, NBC Universal and News Corp have teamed up to challenge YouTube’s internet dominance via Hulu. The big draw lay in the two entertainment powerhouses (along with a number of other notable networks like Sci-Fi, Bravo, etc.) offering full-length ad supported episodes of their hit shows, as well as being a user generated content hub for folks to upload their own clips. Sounds pretty awesome, doesn’t it? So why doesn’t it work?

For one, the video quality is only a few shades higher than YouTube. Quite frankly, I expect a major network to make it’s own work available in one pretty damn high quality format, and this just doesn’t cut it. The default window size of 520×295 (and the hideous video distortion when you attempt to full-screen) means that a 1600×1200 resolution (ie, mine) is going to be mostly non-video, which is another serious hit. I don’t want to watch Battlestar Galactica in a window, ya know. I want to actually WATCH the show.

Which brings me to the next point: I realize that Hulu is currently in beta, but currently the show line-up only looks great on the surface. In nearly every case, the available show listings seem almost random in what’s actually available. Going back to Battlestar Galactica, for instance: BG is gearing up for a Spring 2008 schedule for its fourth and final season, and while UK and Australian fans already have Season 3 available on DVD, US fans will have to wait until Season 4 airs for the same. On Hulu, Season 3 is available, but only from episodes 14-20. What the hell is up with that? That kind of spotty-availability is endemic to every popular title listed.

Oh, and by the way: The site is designed for US based IPs only, so screw you, rest of the world.

All in all, Hulu is shaping up to be one of those corporate endeavors that actually drives people towards piracy (at least in the case of material that’s not available on DVD) by severely limited both the scope and the quality of the material available. So far, not a single big network seems to understand what it is we’re wanting from media delivered via tubes (ie, broadcast quality work in a format that lets us actually enjoy it), and that’s a lesson they need to learn and fast. It’s a couple mouse-clicks for a user to decide they’d rather just download a high quality rip of a show rather than sit through a smattering of ads for a version not even 1/8th the quality.

All in all, I’m willing to predict that Hulu (barring some monumental changes between now and live launch) is going to be yet another consigned-to-the-dustbin folly that drives home just how horrendously inept the media companies have been in dealing with the internet as a whole.

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  • Andy Cochrane

    i have not yet tried hulu, but i have a few thoughts on the overall idea, and direction of “new media” (that term is the new “web 2.0”, isn’t it?). 1600×1200 is somewhere between 720p and 1080i/p, so what you want is hidef content; obviously we are gonna need a bigger tube. anyone who watches the hidef trailers over on apple’s quicktime trailer site can vouch for how long that can take per min of video. as of right now, dvd quality video is a pretty hard goal to reach on the web, so asking for full hd is a bit of a stretch- for now. but the future is definitely coming.

    anyone lucky enough to have, or have tried out AT&T’s Uverse or verizon’s fios has seen where all of this is going- voice, data, and tv (cable) on the same high bandwidth fiber optic cabling. on demand programming is almost instant, cheaper than a rental (unless you have netflix, and don’t just sit on the same 3 dvds all month), and in slightly compressed 1080i. i strongly predict a huge rise in on-demand style offerings instead of services like hulu. the advantage of online services is that anyone can access them, but the bandwidth can’t match what the cable providers are offering. and with google buying up dark fiber all over the place, and working on buying an entire spectrum of the airwaves, i think we’ll see a hidef, on demand, professional content filled youtube in a few years. but it is more likely to be like on demand than internet video is now.

    user generated content is all well and good, but none of us can compete with people whose entire focus is creating shows, and whose budgets make almost anything attainable. as long as there are studios and networks, there will be top tier content. how that is delivered, and monetized, is in the works now. i agree, without having yet tried it, that hulu sounds like a swing and a miss, but it is an indication of the direction the big guys are willing to move in. i do not know what will happen, but i am willing to put all of my money on the fact that the internet and television are not going to stay separate for much longer.

  • .alphamonkey.

    Sony and Microsoft have no small chunk of cash invested in that very idea, Andy. The Xbox and the PS3 aren’t gaming machines. They’re opening salvos in a war on who will control home computing and entertainment.

  • Andy Cochrane

    absolutely, and with video games already a bigger industry than film and tv, the weight they can and will throw around is only going to increase. we are looking at a coming storm of epic convergence.

  • RazorFine

    I signed up on Nov. 14 for the private beta list and received an e-mail telling me I would be sent a password to be able the access the site soon.

    I’m still waiting….

  • Andy Cochrane

    that was my joost experience- once i had given up on it i got an invite, only to discover that joost sucks. the content is great, the interface is beautiful, the buffering///buffering///buffering is inexcusably annoying and very realplayer circa 1999

  • Tom

    I’ve received a few links to their content and I get redirected to a registration page. Maybe when there’s something I’m desperate to see, I’ll registeer. Or maybe they’ll be gone before that happens.

  • Cina

    I’m very positive on this “hulu” idea.I tried today and it was good.
    I think it’s the first step to a new way of watching movies.Now it’s free so complains are good for further improvements without having people to pay for it.
    It could become a starting point for people who wants to make their own movies, but in a more official way than you tube, and, eventually let them make money out of it.why not?
    Cable TV will be dead soon if things will not change; and prices has to drop.

    I defintely will keep an eye on hulu… and it may turn out to be a great success.. (bandwith granted)..

  • Nick Mundy

    They do have WWF clips… So thats cool.

  • Ken

    Do you regret this prediction?

  • .alphamonkey.

    Not particularly, no.

  • William

    I couldn’t agree more. Hulu is a sad attempt by the huge network companies to stymie piracy of their intellectual properties. It won’t happen and this is a huge waste of money for them. Lmao

  • Cap’n Carrot

    Hulu works fine if you take it under the premise of “better than nothing.” Though it often makes you want to pull your hair out when content unexpectedly disappears. I understand the time-limitations and the reasons for these, but you would think they would want to showcase current storylines and seasons better, especially during winter hiatus. Against something like YouTube it doesn’t fare very well, but compared to most networks and shows’ official sites it’s far superior (especially given the embed option which others either don’t have or don’t implement – yes, I’m talking to you CBS).

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