As a big fan of iTunes, I was quite skeptical that any service out there could offer a better experience for rich media – and although I still believe iTunes is king when it comes to music, video has an interesting new player in town. The site is hulu.com and for those of you who have been keeping up with the Apple/NBC drama, this is NBC’s answer, which quite frankly seems a little odd considering the disagreement was (apparently) over prices – and hulu is free.
Either way, while there is no shortage of reviews for the service out there, I figured I’d add my views on it. My first impression is that the service is great, and although there are a number of usability issues, hulu performs its core function (playing video) remarkably well. There are many shows and even some full-length movies available for your viewing pleasure – all at excellent quality.
My biggest issue with the service is the advertisements right in the middle of the show – and even then, I’ll have to admit that they are short and to the point (for the most part). It is still obtrusive and the idea of being forced to watch something makes me think that the decision for this move was made by someone at executive level clinging on to a dying breed of advertising in hopes that it behaves like it has in the past. The fact of the matter is that broadcast media is dying and the old advertising model (30 second spots) are expensive, time-consuming, and ineffective. In today’s world, the media-saavy consumer will not sit through a 10 second spot, let alone a 30 second spot when all he/she has to do is hit the skip button on their TiVo! (I love TiVo).
Several other things are broken on the service as of right now (at least in Safari). The idea of being able to subscribe to a show or add shows to a playlist both sound very appealing, but I’m not about to switch my browser of preference to get these features to work. Bottom line, any developer worth anything will pay attention to ALL A-grade browsers (Internet Explorer (at least from 6.0 up), Firefox 2+, and Safari 3+).
In conclusion, I’m quite impressed with HULU. Landing an invite to the beta is a bit of a challenge, but if you figure out a way to check it out, I strongly encourage you to do so. Now back to Gob’s chicken dance!