Tuesday, March 18, 2008

On Hulu, and materialism...

Perhaps you've heard that a new website launched this week at hulu.com that allows you to watch full length TV and Movies for free online. What you may not have heard is specifically how incredible this venture really is and how it may just be the ticket in solving the digital media crossover.

Most people know now that you can buy TV and Movies from Itunes (at what I consider to be ridiculous pricing) but then fail to realize that you can see most shows online for free at the network sites (with one commercial between each segment, but perhaps you missed the word FREE). Hulu attempts to consolidate that experience into one place, and add movies to the mix as well. So does it work? I'd answer "Yes with a very big but". We will get to my big but later, but first here's what works.

Hulu is extremely well put together and very user friendly. It looks great and it's easy to find exactly what you are looking for. Watching a show or film is a no pain process and in many ways trumps the network's setups easily. You don't have to have an account to watch stuff (unless it is rated R) but signing up for one (for FREE I should mention again) allows you to access some pretty amazing features. For one, you can queue any show or movie that you want to watch so that whatever computer you use, at home or work (shame on you, seriously, oh wait, where am I again?), it will show up as ready to view without searching for it again. It also allows some pretty amazing community functionality like emailing the videos, sharing them within Hulu, or (and here's where it's starts to go from great to amazing) embed them in your blog or website. Not only that, but you can even select scenes by dragging a start and stop point and embed that!

For instance:

Let's say I'm doing a blog post on materialism and I want to reference some recent media as example. I could, say, post the entire episode of The Office where Micheal deals with his financial debt as such:



or (knowing that you probably don't come here to watch a 40 minute TV show) I could quickly and easily select this scene from "The Jerk" to make the same point:



The point is, as someone who has been using media for message for years, Hulu just revolutionized the way we can share that media. Do I need to mention again that this is all FREE?!

Except for one thing, and here's the big but, content selection. It's true that Hulu has a pretty decent selection of full shows and movies (especially for just starting) but the only way this works in the long run is if somehow they manage to sign content deals for much, much, much more stuff. For example, there was a great scene in Big Brother this week (yes, I'm still watching, and yes I probably need an intervention) where three of the guys talked about the Bible stories they were reading. It was compelling, funny, and a great insight to how "normal" people (if by normal you mean frat boy mentality) see scripture. I would have loved to share it with you here. But I can't, because Hulu doesn't have it. The truth is, if you are specifically looking for something, the chances are far greater that they don't have it than that they do, and until that changes Hulu is just a pipe dream of what could be.

I'd encourage you to check it out, if nothing else to see what is possible, and I will be keeping a keen eye on them to see if they can pull this thing off.