Hulu: I’m in and I’m impressed
To some small surprise, someone somewhere at Hulu hooked me up with a beta invite to the service. I hadn’t previously put my name in the beta bucket, but I’m glad I got a chance to check this out because Hulu, despite it’s awful name (which, aside, reminds me of Hufu, human flesh substitute for vegan cannibals), the service leaves me surprisingly hopeful for TV on the web. Most previous efforts I’ve seen relied heavily (or entirely) on Flash, been difficult to navigate, and produced video that looks like crap. Hulu definitely uses Flash (but fairly sparingly, thankfully), but the interface is sparse and extremely well laid out, and ads only appear during the designated ad spots in the stream (marked by dots in the timeline). Some bits:
- It needs more content. Yeah, I know, it just launched, but this thing needs way more content, and it needs less recent content. It’s not just that there aren’t a lot of shows (I’m sure more are coming), but most of these shows are limited to only the last few episodes that aired. That’s fine, but I still watch The Office on HDTV and I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon, the experience is too good. What I want is to catch up on episodes from previous seasons that I missed, not just clips from previous seasons and the last few full eps from this season.
- It’s embeddable. Seriously, and you can even embed a custom clip from the show, if you only want to see the punchline. Check it out after the break. (Note: my site’s column width is only 480px wide, and the Hulu player apparently won’t let me shrink it down below it’s surprisingly-high-res-for-web resolutino of 520 x 295. It’s a feature, it’s a bug.)
- Great user experience and interface for a site in this market. You can dim the rest of the site to focus in on the video being played; going to full-screen is instant and looks pretty good even up close (TechCrunch reports that it’s streamed at 480Kbps or 700Kbps); videos load almost instantly and there’s little or no lag.
- Kara doesn’t like that it doesn’t have user-generated content. Wait, huh? Who actually thought NBC Universal and Fox were trying to overtake YouTube on the Chocolate Rain game? The whole concept here was so they could make sure premium content (like Samberg’s Digital Shorts, for example) is both a) online and b) making THEM money, not other video sites.
- Non-downloadable. Yeah, that’s kind of lame, but better they offer it as web streaming only than piss off the early audience with Windows-only DRMed junk (see: BBC). Not sure when they’ll get this one together though.
- You still have to sit at your computer. The interface is probably usable at ten feet, but not that many people have the hookup on HTPCs. Hulu would be a true streaming TV game-changer if it got Apple TV and Windows Media Center plugins.