I've been beta testing the new HULU video service out for the last week or so. In case you aren't familiar with it, it's been put together by some of the major networks (NBC, FOX, Universal, and more). It offers a YouTube like experience... but with originally aired network content & movies. Not only does hulu offer older catalog shows (A-Team, Alfred Hitchcock Presents) come to mind. They are also offering brand new currently airing content, such as Heroes, 30 Rock, Chuck, Family Guy, The Simpsons, etc.
Currently there is a nice variety of content on Hulu, and it's only in beta. New content is being added all of the time, and I'm pretty happy so far with the selection. They offer a few movies, most notably 'The Jerk' and 'Sideways'. Family content and talkshows are pretty skimpy at this time, but I expect this to grow as well.
What's nice about Hulu is that it works on my Mac. It uses Flash for streaming the video, like YouTube. Although, it seems to be a much higher quality stream than YouTube offers, and a nicer looking player. It's certainly not HD by any means, but it's free and compatible on all platforms that support Flash 9. and that is much more important to me.
Content is sponsored by commercials, but non-intrusive ones. When a commercial appears, it shows a little countdown timer that shows how long it will be until it ends. Normally it's 15 seconds or less, which beats the 3-5 minute breaks we are used to seeing during regular TV viewing. They do show some little pop-up ads occasionally that appear randomly over the lower portion of the video, which seem to appear for no rhyme or reason.I suspect this is just a bug as they are figuring this whole embedded ad model.
The video looks great, and you can view it Full screen, pop it out into a window, or watch it right on the Hulu website. If you are watching on the website, they have a cool 'lower lights' feature that dims the content surrounding the video that is playing. Nice!
They are doing a wonderful thing by allowing you to embed content into your website. Not only is this a great promotional vehicle for the networks, but it allows them to keep the content under their control, and not have to squabble with media services over copyright issues.
They even go so far as to allow you to selectively create clips from episodes. So if there is a really funny part you want to share, you can select it and then just embed that portion onto your site.
One caveat I can see with this is that some episodes will expire from their online offerings. I can only assume when this happens, you will lose the video embedded on your website. I haven't experienced this first hand though.
This is a great start for a video service. Initially people joked about the name, and made fun of NBC for putting the service together since they are feuding with Apple. I had a good feeling this would be good, and frankly, it is. Even in beta, its got some great content and they are doing it right. It provides an EXCELLENT alternative to buying shows. Also, it makes a perfect alternative to the players CBS, ABC, NBC offer on their website. As they continue to add more content, I can foresee that it's going to make it a one stop shop for watching TV shows on my Mac.
4 out of 5