I was fortunate enough to be invited into the Beta of Hulu.com. It has received some media coverage, but for those that don’t know, Hulu is an online video service that offers hit TV shows, movies and clips at Hulu.com and other online destination sites. It is presently only available in the United States. It was started as a joint venture of NBC Universal and News Corp.
Yes, but what is Hulu? In simple terms Hulu is an online video service showing movies and television shows from FOX, NBC Universal, MGM, Sony Pictures Television, Warner Bros. and others. But most important to viewers is that the content is original and not some poorly done duplicate as it often the case on YouTube, the controls are strong (more on that shortly), and you can count on it being there because you are not depending on somebody violating copyrights to publish it. Best of all, Hulu is (at least at present) free.
No, Hulu does not (yet) offer content outside of some preview clips in HD, so if you want to pipe it through to your 1080p High Def television (I don’t yet own one myself), the experience may be a bit lacking, but for most others it will be much better than anything you are used to streaming over the Internet, as the shows are typically available in standard 360 and a 480 High Definition mode.
During the Beta phase, I was I must admit a bit unenthusiastic about Hulu, but that was mostly because I wasn’t seeing the content. There were more clips there than full shows or movies. and I was questioning how much NBC, Fox and their partners were actually going to put up in the way of real content. Well just prior to their March 12th launch, the content started really showing up, and the library while by no means complete (they really need to find a way to get ABC and CBS in the fold to get this to really take off), if there are shows you like (or liked in the past) the is a good chance that if they are from one of the current partners, you just might find it there.
But you are not stuck only viewing the shows and clips on the Hulu sight. As has become the norm since YouTube, you can also embed a video player with content right into your web site or blog. There is supposed to be a “social” feature to it, but that idea seems to be more a work in progress, as a present all you seem to be able to do it link it into MySpace (no shock there since News Corp owns MySpace), Facebook, Digg and a few others.Â The queuing feature (ability to tag what movies you want to watch so you can find them easily later) also while functional seems a bit lacking, like they have a vision for what they want to do with it (I’m guessing a “if you like X, then you may also like Y type of thing), but for now it is just a functioning queue.
Working with the site is incredibly easy, the controls are intuitive, and the lag on my FIOS connection is almost non-existant sans a short delay if I skip a large block of the show.Â You can pop the movie/show out of the browser into a new window, or even play it full screen.Â At full screen on my laptop (running 1440 x 900) there was some pixilation on the standard 360 mode, but the movies that were available at the higher 480 appeared quite clean.
Of course, the big question is (or should be), is there advertising.Â And the answer is yes.Â There are commercials inserted into both the movies and the television shows.Â But they were a single commercial which seemed to pop up somewhat randomly (perhaps because I haven’t watched for any long length of time yet, I have usually watched parts of a show or movie when I had a spare few minutes, so perhaps if I watched longer at one time, I would see a pattern (say every twenty minutes or so).Â Since it was only a single commercial at a time and not a “block” of them as you normally see on network television, I found it much easier to tolerate while watching a movie or show. I had heard talk (but not from the company) about possible a premium edition that would allow you to watch without the commercials, but as I said, they are far less intrusive here since there isn’t a seemingly endless batch of them at one time.Â A single commerical and back to the show, works well enough for me to stick with the free version.
In conclusion, Hulu still has some work to do, and still have some slightly rough edges.Â But it is here now and far more functional than anything else out there right now.Â This is no doubt the closest that the mainstream media outlets have come to getting new media and the Internet right.Â For times that you need to watch something that is a litle more adult while your kids once again are dominating the television set with Disney or Nick jr, Hulu is a great way to get to watch some shows for yourself.Â Thow on a headset, fire up that computer and watch your shows while they watch theirs.
Hulu is not going to take over your viewing completely, it is not quite ready for that… yet.Â But it certainly is worth checking out.