Online video site Hulu will open its doors to the public in the United States tomorrow. The site, created as a joint venture between NBC-Universal and Fox, was initially panned by many who saw it as just another video site doomed to fail going up against behemoths YouTube and iTunes. Yet, Hulu has received some glowing reviews since it launched into limited testing last year. Can it succeed?
If simplicity were the only factor in the equation, then the answer would be yes. Hulu makes it very easy to find what you are looking for. The site is not cluttered with advertisements or unnecessary features, you simply get large screen captures and video preview windows of the shows you are looking for. The site also allows you to search for content that isn’t hosted on Hulu. For example, if you search for ‘Lost’, you will be taken to a page with results from ABC’s hit show Lost — but Hulu doesn’t have a content deal with ABC, and so clicking on these will take you to ABC’s online player.
Speaking of ABC, their online full-episode offering is a good contrast to Hulu. Whereas ABC.com’s full episode area is over-crowded and clunky, Hulu’s is sleek and easy. ABC requires you to pop open a new window to play a video, download a plug-in for encryption — Hulu does none of that, instead opting to allow you to play what you want with one or two clicks and giving options such as opening videos in new windows.
Probably the most key factor in Hulu success will be the content. This is an area that they have been making great strides in, and with the public launch will offer content from Warner Brothers, Lionsgate, the NBA and the NHL NewTeeVee’s Liz Gannes reports.
Hulu currently has partnerships with over 40 content providers. Check out the full list on Hulu’s site.
Content without the aforementioned simplicity though can still cripple a service. Look no further than Joost as an example of this. That service actually does have some good content, but it’s too hard to find. More damning is that the service requires you to launch an entirely different application to use — Hulu is all browser based and even lets you use embed codes to put clips on your own sites.
Hulu also offers some of its content in high definition quality — something which YouTube does not. iTunes has some high definition content, but none for its television downloads. Still, there is much debate over how much this matters and if “high definition” is even an accurate description of what we get on the Internet.
The service, which cost $15 million to develop, makes money off of an assortment of pre-roll (played before the video starts playing) and limited interruption commercials. These are not quite as obtrusive as you might think, but still can be an eyesore in a world of DVRs and the thus far commercial-free YouTube.
Below, enjoy an embed from Hulu of NBC’s The Office.