Hulu – Watching Video Online.

Image representing hulu as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

I grew up in the middle of nowhere. We didn’t have a television for a number of years. Cable was not available. Satellite was the only (and expensive option). Local TV channels were sparse. We learned to live with VHS.

When I moved to college I didn’t have a TV. I never bought one. We watched movies on our laptops or in the lounge. When Charity and I married and moved into an apartment our TV didn’t get a single channel – even the local ones. When we purchased our house, our home still didn’t get any channels. More recently they’ve changed everything over to digital and we never bothered to get a converter box – so now we definitely don’t get any channels.

We have a huge old TV some friends gave to us. No, I’m not too worried about mentioning this on the internet – b/c it’d take two or three people to move it and has a street value of $25-$50…but, hey, it works great for us – even if those little flat-screens look really pretty.

I still use the ClearPlay DVD player I was given years ago for allowing myself to be interviewed by a Philadelphia reporter for an article on the DVD player. It is starting to break down a little bit – but its been what, eight years?

So, Charity and I have learned to live without real TV (gasp). That’s not to say that we don’t watch anything – we do – but 95% of it is on the computer. The only time we turn on the TV/DVD player is for her exercise videos (no, I never watch / do them…people in leotards is disturbing to me) and when we have friends over and want to watch something as a group.

How do we watch anything? Hulu and Netflix. I began going largely internet based long before most people knew what internet video was. In those days there were a number of small vendors offering a small selection of movies and tv shows – many of these has since folded or been acquired. I envisioned a day when there’d be one site I could visit to watch tv shows – and not just the old stuff from the sixties no one cared about…then one day, a company began delivering on that promise – Hulu.

Hulu offers a wide range of television shows and movies online and for free. It is a pretty great deal. Yeah, if you watch them on TiVo you can skip the commercials, but Hulu is pretty close – with only 30-60 seconds of commercials on each break. The video is high quality, the buffering ensures the video doesn’t crack up even on reasonably slow lines, and the queue features allow you to track when new episodes are released for your favorite shows.

Hulu now has Hulu Plus for $9.95 – I received an invite to the beta but never joined. They wanted us to pay up-front. What? How about at least 30 days free? Especially since its a beta? Plus we already have Netflix – and I’m not going to spend more than $15 or $20 a month for video entertainment – I have too few dollars in the first place and better things to utilize them on.

But I’m still relatively happy with Hulu. I’ve been disappointed that they are now oftentimes stacking two videos – one right after the other. This is annoying.

They have gotten better at not showing you the same commercial over and over again in a single episode. For example, I can remember having four or five commercial breaks in an episode and seeing the same commercial each time! I wanted to shoot myself! Ach! One of those commercials was for the Adam Sandler movie Click – the first few times my wife and I thought it looked funny – then we became so sick of seeing the commercial over and over again we vowed to never see the movie and never have…it still makes me feel ill thinking about it. Overexposure – bleck.

Still, Hulu has a bit of a problem with this – which is funny – b/c part of the beauty of online video is its promise to offer better value (imho) to advertisers than normal video. Why? Well…

  1. When you keep the ads short people don’t have time to leave the room. I sit through the commercial breaks on Hulu when they are thirty seconds – but when they get longer than that I can run to the bathroom, grab a drink from the fridge, or browse a website. Advertisers get my devoted attention when they are the only advertiser.
  2. Hulu needs to learn how to spread the ads better. Yeah, yeah, I know we don’t buy it till the 20th time we’ve seen it – but I’m not that sort of guy….or if I am, you need to spread it out over a year…otherwise I just become annoyed.
  3. Ideally, ads will eventually become part of the show itself. Did you notice how the hero is using a Dell and the villains are all using Macs? Okay, I made that one up…but I’d cast the villains as Mac users. 😉 Point is, you can advertise without even making it obvious…Cisco has done a good job of ensuring product placement in various shows demonstrating their video conferencing technology.

So, anyways, Hulu is pretty great. I made the switch to internet video years and years ago – now the trend seems to be hitting a tipping point, but its very possible you are still doing it the old-fashioned way…which is fine, unless you are paying out the nose for it – which many people are…in that case, try Hulu…I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

P.S. I’m hopeful that internet alternatives to traditional broadcast channels will offer better life to those shows that I love that are continually being canceled b/c they don’t appeal to a wide enough audience. Using Hulu you don’t have to pick between two shows showing at 8:00 p.m. – b/c now they are available anytime…and b/c this competition isn’t as furious you can see shows produced for smaller audiences. This hasn’t happened too much yet, but I expect it to be part of the trend of the future.

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