At first, online video service Hulu appeared to be a futile response to the rising tide of online user uploaded and user generated content—after all, Hulu is a group of major broadcasting networks backing a platform to publish their content online and regain control of their distribution networks. Hulu was declared doomed, and bound to fail.
Now, a year later, Hulu appears to be thriving. It has had a lot of press and Nielsen recently declared that Hulu is the number two online destination for video behind YouTube. Hulu also launched a memorable advertising campaign during the Super Bowl. Moreover, Hulu videos turn up frequently in the top search results for a video query.
Hulu fills a genuine desire for professionally generated content on the Web. Google trends for any given television series shows spikes in popularity for the days after the show airs. For example, 30 Rock over the past few months.
Consumers appear to have agreed to compromise with networks and advertisers for the high quality content they provide. Hulu enables a person to watch TV online with a much better experience than provided by YouTube, network Web sites, or even on-demand television channels. Professionally created television shows and movies are easily searched and content is readily available in a user friendly environment.
Hulu’s model, supported by growth in its first year of existence, and the ways in which search can support this model are intriguing in their simplicity. To continue this success, Hulu must strengthen its position as a premier destination to watch professional video content online.
However, I do wonder if solely being a home for content will suffice for Hulu. People like to express themselves online. An example of this is the rapid rise of Twitter—a venue that supports constant exclamations of existence in a few sentences. Other online venues are moving towards stretching out their integration with other mediums and facilitating connections between users. Hulu, on the other hand, does not empower a consumer to declare themselves through the videos they watch, or the characters they follow. It does not yet provide a deeper engagement than television; it provides a means for having a television experience online. For advertisers, this means that consumers are not attaching themselves to brands as they do elsewhere online, but attributing brands to television shows, as they have always done.
It will be interesting to see if people remain satisfied with this limited engagement or if Hulu will have to adapt to provide its users with more creative options. Hulu’s future may be an indication of the extent of consumers’ willingness to compromise for content at the expense of expressing themselves through their own creations and conversations.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.