Hulu Goes Live
What I love about Hulu, the online video portal created by unlikely bedfellows NBC and Fox, is the design. It’s even more simple than YouTube but it has the most sophisticated look of any video portal out there – and there are MANY.
Who knows if consumers will ultimately gravitate to Hulu, but here’s what it’s got going for it: Lots of desirable content that’s easy for broadband-based viewers to find and to watch. Hulu makes it utterly unnecessary to take up valuable space on my DVR recording shows such as The Office and 30 Rock. I can watch these shows and lots of other stuff – House, The Simpsons, bad clips from Saturday Night Live — for absolutely free. I can watch favorite episodes again and again without having to store them. And I can watch them any old time I want, even crawling into bed with my laptop on my lap and my wireless network chugging away. No wonder I barely read anymore.
Unlike ABC.com, Hulu is working hard to get as many content providers as possible on board, although PaidContent.org says that the revenue split is pretty stingy, which may be keeping potential partners away. And much is being made of the fact that ABC and CBS aren’t signing on, although both those TV networks have robust online offerings of their own.
According to the cynical world of bloggers, there’s a lot more going against Hulu than for it. One potential problem, in my view, is the fact that Hulu is the product of two huge media conglomerates that see the Internet mostly as one giant distribution and marketing opportunity. Handled correctly, the Internet is exactly that, but I have my doubts about what major media conglomerates will do if they are truly handed the keys to the Internet, like YouTube and Craig’s List have been. Craig’s List, in particular, has handled its success in a remarkably populist manner, but I wouldn’t expect such grace and good will from corporate America.
Internet viewers are picky creatures who don’t want to be told what to watch or what to like. People definitely want to watch their favorite shows at their convenience, but too much advertising will send these viewers screaming back to YouTube or MySpace TV or Facebook or FunnyorDie.com or any one of the millions of other places they can hang out on line. It’s not like the old days when we watched ads because we had to. Now, if we don’t like an ad, we just fast-forward it or go watch something else while we wait for the ad-free DVD to come out. It’s going to be very hard for growth-driven companies such as General Electric and News Corp. to resist advertising revenue if it’s offered to them.
Right now, Hulu feels very clean and minimally commercial. I expect that to change, but I hope not by much.