Hulu and Online Viewing: Way of the Future

Some of you may not know of the Hulu.com and I pity you, though some of you may not know how to do more than check your e-mail, so it’s understandable (and amazing that you’re here reading this if that’s true).  So, what is Hulu.com?

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Quite possibly the greatest online viewing site of all time (and it’s legit too).  Sure, you have to watch maybe 30 second ads every now and again, but hey, you’re not stealing and it’s at your convenience.  Why is Hulu so great?  Well, let’s take a look at the options.

youtube_logo3-croppedYouTube: Well, the quality is often not great, and finding your fav TV show is tough and usually in parts, since youtube is not sponsored by the networks.  Hulu is and in better quality.

divx_logoDownloading Divx: Well, aside from it being participating in pirating, it takes time and HD space.  The quality factor is good, waiting isn’t.  Plus if you only have internet access to a public computer, its likely you won’t be able to watch.

Network Sites: This is actually a decent (and often required) option, now that online viewing is the way of the future.  All the major networks are in on it now, even the lil CW.  So, from worst to best, the network sites.

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PROS: You don’t have to try and find a version of it somewhere on the internet.  The player is so, so.

CONS: The player is so, so.  All you can do is go full screen (which isn’t true full screen, more of a kind of bigger option) or watch it in its lil window.  Post time, at least for Smallville, is sluggish.  Other networks have it up for you the morning after, the CW when they get to it, but at least before the next episode.  Also, they’re among the first to take old episodes down (meaning older eps from the current season).  You’d think for being a “struggling” network they’d jump on the digital bandwagon quicker.  No CC.  No Hulu.

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PROS: They’ve got good quality and HD options.  Plus you can chat as you watch (I think they’re the only one offering that option), and discuss the show with other fans.  I don’t watch many CBS shows, so not sure about the posting time.

CONS: If you don’t want to watch it full screen, there are no size options.  And much like the CW, small it has to be in the site’s window, and with lighter colors around it (you’ll see why that’s less good with the next networks).  No CC.  No Hulu.

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PROS: Like CBS, they have a standard and HD option.  They also have a sort of pop out video player, which is less distracting than the CW/CBS options, and it dims out the background while you’re watching.  CC available. Posting time is decent, usually next day late morning, sometimes later…

CONS: You’ve got to download stuffs to get the player to work, though it’s only a one-time thing.  The ads are short, but you have to click to continue, which is obnoxious if you’re watching on your PC hooked up to your TV.  Lastly, and this is a small thing, but the video will occasionally start off in youtube-ish quality until the pixels align with the stars–or for whatever reason become clearer.  No Hulu.

Overall, though, a pretty good player.

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PROS: An actual dim lights option, all though the background isn’t all that distracting.  Boasts only HD viewing.  Looks like CC is planned for the future, but not available yet (at least not for Fringe).  Posting has been early to late mornings most of the time.  Hulu poster.

CONS: Not many.  I’d like to adjust the size, instead of just small and full screen.  I occasionally have lag troubles with the player, but it’s not often.

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If there were no Hulu, I’d look to NBC to lead the digital future.  They’ve been on the ball with getting their content online, both on their site and elsewhere.  I think the majority of clips I watch online are NBC related (well, SNL).  Not only do they have a good player, they also let Hulu show most (if not all) of their content, and they’ve let Netflix Instaview post Heroes: Season Three.  I think NBC is the company that’s getting it.  Give the people what they want and they’ll keep coming back to you.  As for the player:

PROS: Gives you a few sizes options as well as full screen.  Background isn’t distracting.  It’s easy to find episodes.  They post in the early a.m. and as I recall before everyone jumped on the digital bandwagon, was among the first to have quality streaming.  You can even select chapters of episodes (although I suppose you can just click on the buttons on the timeline, the thought is nice, like a DVD). Hulu poster.

CONS: Not many.  I suppose the inability to pop-out, and that the player has occasionally been finicky, but all in all a good player.  No CC.

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netflix01Netflix was a toss up for me to include in the list.  It is streaming some shows (Heroes, Jericho) along with the season now, and has probably been one of the biggest proponents of online viewing, yet its variety is still somewhat lacking.  I’m hoping their player will continue to improve (whatever happened to the player they expo’d in 2007 with all its sweet features), but as it stands they aren’t the favored place to watch recent clips.  Still, I’m in it for the DVDs, so bonus online content is just that: a bonus.

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Again, why is Hulu.com so great?

You’ve got SD and 480p options (at least 720p would be nice), dim lights, sharing, embedding, and my favorite, the pop-out.  I may want to catch up on my favorite shows while doing other things on my computer, and I like having a resizable window at my disposal.  Related clips are easy to find, you can rate and comment on episodes, and you’ve got sorting options (popular, recently added, etc.)

And I’ve really just been discussing TV.  They’ve got a library of movies, older TV shows, and tons of video clips.  Want to watch an SNL clip in better quality than youtube?  Well, thank NBC and Hulu, because now you can.  So while I’m grateful to these networks for making decent players, I like the Hulu standard best of them all.  Plus, it’s the most user friendly.  (No extra software, at least if you keep up your flash player).

Of course, Hulu wouldn’t be Hulu without those networks and companies that support it.  So another thanks again to NBC for getting what this new generation of viewers wants and giving it to us.  Check out Hulu.com now, you’re bound to love it!

TV Ratings: Nielsen You’re Old School

What is it that makes network execs decide to keep or cancel a show?  Ratings.  If the ratings aren’t high then potentially the show isn’t getting watch enough and if not enough are watching, advertisers would rather spend their money elsewhere.

Basically, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.  We may enjoy the major networks for free, but advertisers foot the bill and if they don’t think they’re reaching enough of us, they pull their money and in turn shows get pulled.

How are these ratings determined?  A company called Nielsen Media Research places boxes in houses or has viewers keep diaries on what they’re watching.  This may have worked 10 years ago, and though Nielsen is making an effort to see what’s recorded on DVR to be watched later, the new generation of TV watchers doesn’t watch like they used to.  Now with streaming video online (often as good as or much better than SD) as well as DVR, the face of viewing has changed.

I think for a lot of us, if ratings were determined on us actually being at home and sitting on our couches watching when the show aired (which they are), a lot of shows would get canceled (and they have been).  I watch Heroes, Fringe, Pushing Daisies, Dexter, and Smallville currently (add 24 and BSG when they’re on).  But due to my schedule, I’m rarely ever present at home when these shows air.  It was either record for later, or my current preferred method, watch it online the next day.

If I had a Nielsen box in my home, ratings contribution would be low.

With the digital age comes the technology to watch everything on demand (at least after the TV premiere), or later on DVD, because that’s the way a lot of us prefer it.  I suppose I bring this up because I know Pushing Daisies hasn’t been doing well as far as Nielsen is concerned, but I know a lot of people who watch it, and those who do are avid fans.

So are the networks even comparing the online numbers?  True, people could be rewatching vids the next day, but looking at the hugely popular Hulu.com doesn’t it click with the execs that we’re hardly the audience who will be sitting down at the time they demand?

We do have to give credit to a part of the online appeal being less commercials, but for me if it came down to having my favorite show canceled and upping the commercial time online, I’d take more commercial time.

Nielsen, currently you are old school.  And networks, the new generation doesn’t want it when you decide to give it to them, they want it when they want it.  I think once they get it, they can start gaining their money another way, and we can keep our shows.

Anyways, keep your fingers crossed for Pushing Daisies.