Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Hulu Dancing

The hulu site recently launched. Hooray for hulu! What's a hulu?

In addition to being a gourd of some sort, it's also the recent foray of several TV networks into the online version of themselves. Hulu.com represents a partnership between NBC and News Corp. It contains more than 400 programs from NBC, Fox and several other 'channels'. Similar in some ways to the Joost network that Fox was involved with previously. And though some of NBC's content is on nbc.com, Hulu offers more full length (and even some HD) programming.

I checked out the 5 episodes of The Office I have missed this season...so no need to TiVo. I did have to sit through 4 or 5 thirty second 'ads' by the sponsor of each episode, but I figure I netted out ahead of where I'd be if I had watched the episodes as regularly scheduled programming.

It's a nice step forward for the networks involved:

1. Viewers can watch when they want...and pause or rewind programming (but no forwarding past the ads)
2. Quality is good (widescreen, excellent compression relative to YouTube)
3. Wide selection of programming in HD format
4. The ability to share videos on user sites (though no user uploading)
5. All the popular content from the participating networks is available.

But I don't think it is the end of the stepping.

When content is free, it needs to be free. When content has value, people want it to be available. Think of it this way...if you have valuable content, you want it on as many distribution networks as possible (to fulfill the demand for the content). If you have a network, you want all the valuable content (to generate demand for the network) on your network.

But that's not the model the networks have figured out yet...that they either need to be a distribution network or a content producer. They are still trying to have it both ways and the value of their content is being commoditized in the interim as it competes with user-generated content and the networks that distribute it.

Dumb networks beat smart ones.

Metcalfe's law states that the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of users of the system (n²). And as the power of the devices connected to the periphery increase, so does the power of the network. That's why increasingly connected consumer content tools like video camera's, mobile devices and computers connected to a network like YouTube are so powerful.

When competing with consumers for their own attention, networks may have to choose whether they want to be there intensely for short bursts (with content) or at all times in the background (like telecommunications networks).

The Office takes on the timely topics of local market advertising

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