What’s Up with Hulu?

| Jeff Gamet's Blog
I'm always up for new ways to see TV shows and movies that I like, so I took NBC's new venture Hulu for a spin. I liked that there was lots of content, but in the end the user experience flat-out sucked. The kicker? I think there's a chance Hulu may be around for a while anyhow.

So what didn't I like? First, there's the perception that tons of content is available, but I continually came up dry with my searches. My search for Knight Rider, for example, returned Team Knight Rider. Ouch. That's like searching for Battle Star Galactica and only getting a list of Galactica 1980 episodes.

Hey, don't look at me all weird for looking up Knight Rider episodes. All of us kids were totally excited watching the Hoff and KITT in action each week. Really. And Hulu really does have Galactica 1980, too.

OK, I have to ask: What were they thinking? The network just couldn't leave well enough alone and had to create the abomination known as Galactica 1980? Really?

It looks to me like Hulu has a broad selection of shows, but not necessarily a great selection of episodes.

Second, I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around the concept of watching TV shows and movies on my computer in a Web browser. I just don't get why people would want to do that. Sure, my Mac rocks, but I have a Sony Bravia flat panel for watching TV. And a comfy couch. And TiVo.

I just have issues with the whole watching-TV-at-my-desk-on-my-Mac-when-I-could-be-sitting-on-the-couch-in-front-of-my-snazzy-TV thing.

Finally, the commercials. Yes, Hulu forces you to watch commercials during shows, and you can't skip them. I understand that it takes money to produce, distribute and maintain the programming we all love and hold dear to our hearts, but the inconvenience of watching shows in a Web browser while sitting at my computer doesn't hardly feel balanced by the non-avoidable commercials.

I have a better idea: Let me rent or buy the shows I want to watch, download them to my computer, watch them where ever I want -- like at my computer, on my TV, or even on the go on my iPhone -- and give me a user friendly system for managing those shows that doesn't involve my Web browser.

After that glowing review of Hulu's shortcomings, how could I possibly suggest that it won't tank (at least not right away)? Because I've chatted with several people that think Hulu is good enough. Not great, not something to get really excited about, just good enough -- which may be all it takes for a product like this to get by.

Granted, the handful of people I've discussed Hulu with clearly is not a complete cross section, but it was enough for me to see a trend. It makes me think that with the selection of programming available coupled with its "good enough" approach, Hulu might just stick around for a while.

OK, one more thing: Hulu actually has some episodes of Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot. Why must Hulu taunt me this way?

Comments

Zakuro

Hulu is great when…

1. The biggest screen (TV or computer) in your house is your iMac, like me.
2. You do not want to pay to own and/or rent tv shows that air on regular television for free.

Since you have a bigger TV then your computer and don’t seem to have any problem paying for television shows, Hulu probably isn’t for you.
——-

David Baker

I think Hulu fits a nice niche. 

It is somewhere between owning the shows and TV.

I have a Mini hooked up to my HDTV and have watched some shows that way, and the quality is decent in full screen, much like standard definition television.  I also have watched shows on my MacBook while in Hotels.

It does annoy me that some shows only have a smattering of episodes or only the second season and things like that.  I hope that is only because it is a new venture.

I watched some Johnny Sokko and His Giant Robot and am a little embarrassed that I liked it so much when I was a kid.

Dustin J. Craig

Here’s my theory to the abomination that is Hulu:  NBC did allow the distribution of their content on iTunes to be purchased and watched on Apple TV, iPhone, and even on your Mac sans commercials, and we iTunes users were happy for it, especially each episode costing $1.99. The writers wanted to get paid for internet distributed content.  NBC asked Apple to raise the prices of the episodes to give the writers more money.  Apple refused, since $1.99 per episode is a fantastic deal, and a penny more would turn us, the iTunes Music Store consumers, away from such a bargain.  NBC allowed their contract to run out with Apple, and while they were waiting, the writers strike, and thousands of iTunes users stuck with an unfinished season of Heroes on their hard drives.  They created Hulu to stick to their control freak issues.  I’m surmising, that NBC was able to keep a loophole with the writer’s strike with Hulu’s unavoidable commercials to avoid paying the writers so that content can be as crappy as they want it to be while still getting a pretty penny from advertisers instead of consumers…  But that’s all a conjecture of mine….  I got no real evidence to back any of that up, people.  I’m just sayin…

Keith

I think Hulu does what it is supposed to do very well, and that is tv on the internet. As a college student who doesn’t have a snazzy TV, my computer is the next best option to watching video. Many people already watch videos from Youtube and other sites, so there’s no problem watching video on a computer screen. Hulu is just another option or outlet to watch TV for free. The commercials are only like 1 minute long, far less than what you would see on TV, and the interface is simple and easy to use. You seem to be faulting Hulu for what it wasn’t meant to do. It is just TV online for free, not a way to watch TV on your TV.

Chris

You already have a content management application, it’s called iTunes, give it a try.

Why rag on hulu.com for their content? The movie studios are acting just like the music people and making it difficult for people to spend their money. Almost all the releases on hulu mirror the dvd releases of the same programs. Will they have all the episodes of everything? No. Why? Whomever owns the rights won’t release them. It’s in hulu’s interest to have as much content as possible.

Are you going to rag on iTunes for not having the Beatles next?

As for watching programs on your computer, I do it all the time. It’s called full screen and it looks great on a large computer screen.

Tacitus

Never underestimate the public’s acceptance of mediocrity.  After all Microsoft built an empire on it….

Ian

I found many of the same issues were a problem for me too, but I just don’t think Hulu will survive very long. The networks are not targeting the right audience. I think for many people over 40, Hulu and the other network’s websites might be enough for them, but for the rest of us, those who spend an inordinate amount of time online, it just doesn’t cut it.

We want everything, not just a token selection of episodes. Quantity will make up for the ads that have to be run to keep it free. Why not put the ads only in the beginning, when excitement to watch a show is still high? I’d happily wait a minute or two through some ads to see the show for free, since that’s still a lot faster than downloading it from a torrent. I’d even accept ads that played for a few minutes and then presented a link to download. Why can’t the advertisers sponsor the link? 

The problem with Hulu is that the networks think they can tiptoe into this. They can’t. If they want to beat the ease of BitTorrent (so easy my Mom can use it) then they better do something to make people switch. Offer EVERYTHING. Quantity is their strength. Find a way to put it all online, sell ads, and let us do whatever we want with the files and watch it when and how we choose. Only then will they have a chance to survive. Otherwise, they will be replaced and die.

bowser

I’m looking forward to watching this bleed NBC/Universal dry…  it will sell content, sure, but in the long run it won’t break even; they’ll lose money on it and only keep it going to try and spite Apple.  And that makes me laugh because they’re only going to end up costing themselves money now, when they were making money before.  So they loose twice. 

The rest of the networks will be watching this closely, I’m sure, and they’ll see what is really involved, that it will cost them more to do it themselves than to go through Apple.  After that how they proceed is anyone’s guess.  If they’re smart they’ll stick with Apple.

Dustin J. Craig

Hi, me again, just a quick question, why couldn’t they have Hulu, AND content available on iTunes?  That should give them more money either way, right?

Dewey

I think your issues with hulu.com have easy fixes. I have a pc sitting behind my big screen tv (old projector from the 90s) and then control it via my macbook pro. Instant TV with limited commercials (5 for the whole show compared to 5 commercials each break times 5 for regular TV)

Content, they have a lot of good stuff on their and full seasons. They are trying to get everything filled. They have the first two seasons of The Prentender with more to come. I think it is a loading issue. Note that NBC owns Hulu so all of the content comes from them and their subsidiaries.

As for watching on a computer, I watch tv mostly when I am at work on my second monitor (note I run vmware fusion windows so Hulu stays full screen). Makes the day go by so much faster smile

JimD

Here’s another reason to hate hulu:

Go there and try watching the entire 2nd season of Heroes.  You can’t.  They only have 5 episodes out of 11 or 12 (can’t remember how many they finished before the strike).

Isn’t hulu NBC’s baby?  Why don’t they have all episodes of Heroes 2nd season?

Vern Seward

Hmmm… The Hulus were never the same after Galoka saved them.

Michael

I really find their ads very annoying and intrusive - and I an actually a bit surprised by this. Perhaps it is that one isn’t used to see that many ads when watching video on ones laptop.

But it made me think - how much do they earn by these “unfriendly ads” - why not just link it to your paypal account and get a “skip ad button” (or subscription) and pay 1-2 cents each time you skip.

I have no idea what kind of CPM they are getting - but with this frequency it can’t be much. A cent or two for each ad-zap plus a much better user experience is the way to go imho.

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