Thursday, March 13, 2008

Watch Television Online: Hulu Goes Public

Have you heard the latest online video news? Yes, YouTube can now be seen on your TiVo. But that was not the only recent announcement regarding online video content. Hulu, the online video site developed by News Corp. and GE (i.e. the owners of Fox and NBC Universal) exited beta yesterday and is now availible to the general public. Featuring content from Fox and NBC current shows and archives, along with several films from Universal, the site is a one stop destination to watch television online without having to hunt it down quasi-legal (read illegal) episodes on streaming video sites. Well, a one stop shop for certain episodes of certain shows from certain networks, along with several online content providers (Cnet, The Onion).

Now, these shows aren't free. Commercial breaks are observed at the usual points, but they only show one ad per break and the ads run no longer than thirty seconds. When I started watching The Big Lebowski, the site offered me the option of watching the trailer for Hellboy II rather than having commercials interspersed throughout the film. I choose Hellboy II. Two to three minutes of uninspiring popcorn flick is far preferable to multiple interruptions to hear about how goddam cheesy Taco Bell's new Cheesy McCheese Burrito is.

A slight side note: although making Devil's Backbone and Pan's Labyrinth may have earned Del Torro the title "visionary filmmaker" doesn't mean his better visionary qualities are present in a comic book sequel. It is similar to advertising the Hulk by mentioning that Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was amazing.

But as far as Hulu goes, it's a very promising start. They have some very good content (all three seasons of Arrested Development, The Big Lebowski, The Usual Suspects) and some mediocre content (Me, Myself, and Irene; My Dad is Better Than Your Dad). Many shows have too few episodes, but given time (and sucess) we can hopefully look forward to more shows and more episodes.

Summary: If you don't own a television, forgot to TiVo a particular show, or are unwilling to shell out $30 for a season of a show, these legitimate sites are a welcome option. The media corporations are realizing the only way to win (or even break even) in the internet game is to make their content avaliable online for free (or nearly free). May Hulu thrive.

Additionally, they have a very nice feature for bloggers. You can embed entire episodes or select any portion of the episode you want. (Content Warning: Language; You are about to enter a world of pain.)

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