As you may have heard, NBC Universal and News Corp.
recently unveiled Hulu.com, an online video service, currently in invitation-only beta. With Hulu you’ll be able to view Fox shows such as The Simpsons , Prison Break , and House ; FX programs like The Riches ; and NBC shows including Journeyman , The Office , and Heroes . The shows will be available from the Hulu site as well as from partner sites that include AOL, MSN, and MySpace. Sample videos are higher-than-YouTube quality and free. What’s not to like?
Not a thing, unless you’ve actually experienced television and the Internet during this millennium.
Gripe 1: Couch-less viewing
Hulu’s videos are tied to a web browser. Unless you have a computer attached to your TV, you must watch this stuff on your computer’s screen. This is the computer screen that faces the single chair planted in front of it. The one that doesn’t recline. The one that doesn’t have a cup holder. The one that offers room for a single viewer only.
Gripe 2: See Gripe 1
You’ve heard of this iPod thing, right? The device that lets you take your media with you? Completely useless for Hulu content because that content is not portable. You can’t download it and therefore can’t put it on your iPod. I’m as nostalgic as the next guy but being forced to enjoy content on a device tied to an electrical outlet and Internet connection is so Three’s Company .
If I sustained the kind of head injury that caused me to forget everything that happened in the last 10 years I might be okay sitting through the commercials that are embedded in Hulu’s video offerings, but until I take my next tumble down the stairs I’m going to look at Hulu and think, “Oh yeah, this is why man invented TiVo and BitTorrent.”
Word to Hulu: Those who haven’t yet figured out how to skip through commercials are unlikely to be the tech-savvy individuals who’d use your service in the first place. And those who do have the wherewithal to access Hulu’s content are so over advertisements.
Gripe 4: Parochial view
TV programs are just starting to come to iTunes Stores outside the U.S. and those living outside these United States, while desiring a greater selection of programs, seem to appreciate that they’re getting something . Hulu.com provides nothing — the site is walled off from the rest of the world. ( Quel est un beignet de Dunkin? )
Adding insult to injury, NBC Universal and Apple don’t see eye-to-eye on program pricing, NBC threatens to pull out, and Apple scoots them out the door ahead of schedule with a considerate warning to watch their backsides as they leave.
Gripe 5: You get what you pay for
Big: iTunes. Small: Hulu.com
In regard to Hulu’s video quality
Entertainment Weekly crows:
The quality is phenomenal. No more sketchy, viewed-through-gauze YouTube clips. While it’s not quite HD, the image looks far better than the iTunes equivalent.
I understand that too much TV can rot your brain, but honestly, in who’s universe (or should I say Universal ) is Flash video at a resolution of around 384 x 286 “far better” than the iTunes Store’s 640 x 480 H.264 standard? But what do I know? You be the judge.
Gripe 6: Mmmm piracy….
So, let’s sum up, shall we?
No uninterrupted programs.
No access from outside U.S. borders.
No iTunes (in the case of NBC Universal).
Video quality poorer than iTunes.
And where exactly does that leave those Internet-savvy individuals who simply will not be tied to their computers to watch programs they’ve been trained to consider free content?
EDITOR’S NOTE: Story updated to compare iTunes and Hulu.com’s video quality.