The first part of this story is familiar. Young startup companies (e.g. YouTube, BrightCove, etc.) produce amazing Websites that are able to host television shows (or snippets), movies and homemade videos. The Websites become hugely popular. The television and movie studios, owners of the copyrights to the content, sue the startups.
With me so far?
The way the story is supposed to continue is like this. The television and movie studios finally (years later) come out with their own Website to host their own content and blow it. The Websites are hard to use, are cluttered with ads and nobody goes there.
But, this time, that didn't happen.
Fox and NBC did a joint venture, no less, to produce a Website to feature their content. This Website, announced long ago, would start out with a little bit of content, including movies, television series, news programs and even snippets of popular segments. It would be viewable online but no content would be downloadable.
Well, it's here. It's called Hulu. And guess what? It doesn't suck.
In fact, it's pretty amazing. I personally love the site. But my wife, she's gone bananas. Let me back up a second.
My wife is a seamstress. She does a lot of work in what we call "the cutting room" where she has a TV to keep her company during some of the most boring parts of sewing. That TV had gone on the fritz recently and we decided to replace it or change our service to fix the problem.
But Hulu fixed the problem for us. Now she takes one of my laptops into her cutting room, fires up Hulu and watches a show while she's cutting. Simple.
Here are Hulu's benefits:
- Hulu is incredibly easy to use. The placement of every button is intuitive, the behavior of every widget is predictable. It just works. It's the iPod of online video.
- Hulu is free. Every TV show and movie is delivered for no charge.
- Hulu's commercials are non-intrusive. There are commercials in every Hulu movie and TV show. But the commercial breaks are short (one commercial per break) and not that annoying. You cannot fast forward through the commercial. For me, that might actually be a problem, because I hate watching any kind of commercial, but my wife doesn't care. She's only half-listening most of the time anyway.
- Hulu's content is good enough for now. Hulu has a nice mix of new and old TV series, plus a couple of pages of movies. The on-demand feature is so nice. Just decide which movie you want to see and it starts right there. For free. And I am sure that Fox and NBC are working to continue populating the site with more and more content. I see the series and movies coming on-stream every day.
- There are even social aspects to Hulu. You can send a movie to a friend (e-mail them the link). You can send a snippet that you choose (a minute or an hour) to a friend (again - with a link).
- Hulu video is good quality. Jump to full-screen video and you've got nearly television quality video. It's quite nice.
Congratulations to Fox and NBC. Great job! I could give a rundown of the downside of Hulu but that is documented sufficiently elsewhere. For now I just want to give a high five to Fox and NBC for a job well done.
By the way - there are even competitors to Hulu. Veoh and Joost are in this same space - what you could call "legal commercial video" and also doing well. I still prefer Hulu, but it's nice to see several services popping up like this.