While I don’t usually go for online videos compared to downloadable, mostly for quality reasons (*ahemyoutubeahem*), I’ve actually been enjoying the Hulu service recently. The idea is fairly straightforward; they stream reasonably high-quality copies of broadcast TV shows, with very limited commercial interruptions (no more than 15 seconds at a time, and in the standard commercial break spots). They have a number of viewing options (fullscreen, normal, or in the window with the “lights down”, a function that basically greytones everything to the point where you can focus on the video).

What got me watching the series was that they had a few episodes of House that I hadn’t seen, after Hugh and his wife got me into watching the series. Thus far, I’ve been able to catch up with a couple here and there.

The upside of the series is that they have some pretty good selection. The downside is that unless a video gets popular (or somehow gets in with a sweetheart deal), it “expires” from their service quickly; a few of House season 4 are still up, but House season 5 episode 1 is already tagged to vanish from their service tomorrow for some odd reason I can’t fathom.

The big media companies long highlight what they want to do (versus what consumers would like) on the shows. In order, here’s where I think Hulu goes right and wrong:

Right:
– They offer decent quality video. As in, progressive scan, two very viewable resolution sizes.
– The commercials, while present, aren’t annoying to the point of ridiculous. Though they are somewhat repetitive, a worry for the solvency of the service since it seems they only have 3-4 sponsors tops.
– They have a decent selection to choose from.

Wrong:
– There’s no way to watch a series completely through, unless somehow they got authorized to carry it. If you try out a show on Hulu and end up liking it, your best bet is hunting down DVD season box sets.
– The episode you watched today and emailed your friends to recommend, could easily be gone by the time they try to get to it.
– Lack of download options makes the service only usable if you have a strong, reliable network connection. I doubt their higher-quality feed would make it through a DSL-speed connection. plus, it only prebuffers as far as the next commercial break, meaning that letting it sit to load and then watching it won’t work.

I can understand the options they’re given, and if they had to sign something saying “no downloads” for licensing reasons, but the one restriction that annoys me most is the inability to download the episodes in some form or format. I have media center boxes throughout the house, and being able to download them (with commercials included) would make me likely to snag them and put them on for viewing away from my main computer. Even if I had to pay $1 per episode or something, it might be worth it.


Category: Theater

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One Response to Hulu Hoops

  1. trumwill says:

    A lot of the shows on Hulu used to be downloadable for a dollar. It’s a shame that one came at the expense of the other.

    It would definitely be good if they’d apply some system to how long shows are going to be on the system. I don’t know what system is most appropriate, but that I don’t know what’s going to be on from one day to the next is a problem. For me, anyway. I think having to track down the DVD is a feature rather than a bug insofar as one of the purposes of Hulu I’d think is to encourage DVD sales.

    I really wish that they’d let you download it. Even if it was with DRMed files that stopped working after a certain period of time. Once again I’d want them to have a system so that we’d know how much time we have.

    On the whole, though, I’m really glad that they found a system that they feel is secure enough to allow us to watch stuff on the web. Hopefully it’s indicative of an open-mindedness if they can be assured of having control over the content. I do wish that they’d exert that control more consistently, though.

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