Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Hulu wants you to go away

I've watched old episodes of Heroes on the NBC own website but I assumed that with the debut of Hulu (the topic of my last three posts), that all NBC's content would move there. I was surprised to find out that both websites were being maintained and that both feature streaming shows with commercials. Frankly, the browsing experience on Hulu seems relatively clunky compared to NBC's own site.

So why did News Corp. and NBC bother to build Hulu? It's not for better ads or better browsing for users--based on what I've seen, they want you to embed their content. They don't necessarily want you to just go to Hulu-- they want you to take their content and spread it virally, just like what I've done below. Instead of making everyone come to their site, Fox and NBC let fans take their ad-laced shows and embed them into their own websites and blogs--so long as the commercials stay with the content and the impressions are reported back to Hulu, who cares where it lives? Fans were already posting clips or full episodes of Family Guy to YouTube and embedding it in their own sites--now they can do that legally and the networks can finally make money off of the viral spread of their videos. Hulu is acting like an ad broker, but unlike most ad brokers, Hulu doesn't have to pay users money to embed their ads because those users are getting valuable content for free.

They should probably try to make the user experience on their site better, but speaking as a recovering TV addict, if they were trying to make Hulu into a TV-like site where they wanted users to stay, they would have a related video start playing as soon as you had finished watching one, much like episodes flow into one another on TV. Instead, it pauses on a screen that allows you to email or embed the video. It seems they would prefer to get new eyeballs, not hit the same pair over and over.

It's too bad for Google that they were not able to negotiate any deals with the networks for YouTube. With their (perhaps scary) understanding of each user and their likes and dislikes based on previous searches and Gmail, they could probably do a much better job of targeting ads than Hulu, which can only go by the main demographic of the show. If Google were running Hulu, I, as a woman, might actually see an ad for Tampax or Yoplait during Family Guy, even though I was watching a show that seems to be targeted at men 18-30 years old.

It's no wonder the Writer's Guild of America is striking now. It's probably true that networks weren't able to make as much money off of webisodes and shows distributed online compared to TV broadcasts, but with Hulu and Joost (where you'll find CBS and Viacom programming) coming out last year, the potential is growing.

No comments:

Copyright 2008