Early Thoughts on Hulu

I received my Hulu.com invitation a couple of days ago and I thought I would share my initial thoughts on the technology, content and usability. First lets review what Hulu is. Hulu is a web site that is a joint venture between NBC and Fox where they distribute free ad supported video content that they own.

  • Technology – Hulu is using Flash as the video player and as a result works great on Windows in Firefox or IE, and on a Mac in Safari. The player is widescreen format and the player can be popped out or made to be full screen. To use the site, I had to log in, and enter in basic profile information. This enables the ability to save viewing history and to add videos to a playlist. Both of these lists can be viewed as an RSS feed.
  • Content – I was really skeptical of what was going to be offered, but was really surprised by what I found. Not only was there The Office and Family Guy, but I also found shows like Arrested Development and even Hill Street Blues. The real disappointment is that only some episodes are up on the site. Maybe they will add missing seasons or episodes at a later date, but until then, there are other sources online to find this content.
  • Usability – Another pleasant surprise was how easy the player is to use, but also what features the player has. There is a simple one click info button that pops up show information including description and original air date. In addition there is a simple button to help you embed the video in a webpage.

So the unknown quotient is the advertising. The player looks like it shows when the ad break would occur, yet I saw ads get injected at other times as well. In my opinion Hulu will play well with the mainstream crowd, but as is usually the case advance users will want to take the content with them and that means finding that content via other sources.