In our first Sourced article the spotlight is on the incredibly popular Hulu Video service.
What is Hulu?
Simply put, Hulu is a commercially supported online content distribution website for streaming TV shows, movies and trailers at Hulu.com and other online destination sites - all for free anytime. The Hulu service is only available in the U.S. at this stage though they are looking to expand based on the acceptance of their content providers. Similar in concept to Youtube, Hulu allows content to be embedded in other sites as the player is Adobe Flash based. In terms of quality, Hulu offers videos in a 1,000 Kbps, 480p stream or a HD 720p format encoded at 2,500Kbps, both using the H.264 codec.
Hulu is a joint venture of NBC Universal and News Corp though offers videos from FOX, MGM, Sony Pictures Television, Warner Bros as well as NBC Universal.
The thing that intrigues me so much about Hulu, is that it represents acceptance by the big media players in the use of the internet as a viable and commercially relevant media distribution network. The large number of users torrenting media is not always just a simple case of people wanting to pirate, more often than not it is due to the ease of use of watching what you want, when you want. Hulu represents an alternative to this sort of piracy and has so far been very successful. In the gaming world, Steam is a perfect example of how well this model can work.
As with anything to do with media, Content providers can make some bad decisions thinking they are protecting their product. Boxee, a HTPC product based off the excellent opensource XBMC was recently asked by the Hulu team to remove the Hulu feature from Boxee:
Two weeks ago Hulu called and told us their content partners were asking them to remove Hulu from boxee. we tried (many times) to plead the case for keeping Hulu on boxee, but on Friday of this week, in good faith, we will be removing it. you can see their blog post about the issues they are facing.
This decision merely confuses the situation as Boxee represents a superior way to interface with Hulu on the big screen. It is a big loss for both the provider, the consumer in general. I guess it is a case of the old guard still not coming to terms about the true nature of online content distribution. Forcing people to watch via a web browser is probably more to do with ad revenue considering it is really only a different interface.