TechCrunch and Techmeme offer lots of discussion and long posts about the NBC Universal and News Corporation joint video venture and challenge to YouTube: Hulu. The site is not yet open to the public but many of the videos it will be streaming can be seen today on distribution partner AOL. There are both full-length shows and movies being distributed via the site itself and its partner network, which includes Yahoo, Microsoft, MySpace, AOL, and others.
There’s currently no user-generated content and no downloading. There are commercials, but they will be fewer and less intrusive (“limited commercial interruption”) than on actual TV. What may in the short term prevent people from watching as they normally would on TV is that the experience isn’t as good as on conventional TV. The videos I quickly watched on AOL were interrupted and didn’t stream fluidly — no doubt the fault of my Comcast pipe.
One interpretation of Hulu is that it is an effort to reclaim control of distribution from Google/YouTube and Apple’s iTunes. But the irony here is that NBC and Fox may actually be hastening the audience exodus from conventional TV to online.The Internet already claims as much time with media as TV and has the momentum.
In one sense, NBC and Fox have to be commended for rising to the challenge of the Internet and new forms of digital distribution, but they’re probably not fully cognizant of the way that this will further drive audiences (young viewers in particular) away from scheduled programming on TV. And given that advertisers aren’t transferring one-to-one to the online versions of the shows, it will mean a near-term potential loss of ad revenues to correspond with the loss of audiences.
The Internet itself is becoming one big TiVo, and eventually it will make its way into the living room so that many people will ultimately be watching “TV” through an IP connection. Viewers may end up looking for the shows and video content they want to see, not on NBC, ABC, CBS, or Fox (and maybe not even cable VOD), but on Yahoo, MSN, AOL/Truveo, Google/YouTube, and probably Hulu.