Archive for the ‘Hulu’ category

Writers’ Strike: Imminent Proof that Web Video is Hideo

19, November, 2007

As regular readers of this blog [both of you!] know by now, I am bearish on Web video. More specifically, I think the idea that people will watch many half-hour or hour-long TV-style programs on their computers is bull. I believe it’s a hopeful, consensual group delusion among VCs, broadcasters, and 2.entrepreneurs.

And so for purely selfish reasons I hope the writers’ strike against TV production companies continues. Why? As the strike goes on and broadcast fare dries up, several things are likely to happen:

1. Services like Hulu, NBC/News Corp’s platform for delivering standard TV content, will face an early test of value as online delivery mechanisms for network television content. Hulu is still in carefully guarded beta, so the data certainly won’t be conclusive. Similarly, Joost, is just launched and still awfully content-thin. But you can view plenty of broadcast video online at NBCDirect (also beta) or just off the main NBC website. There are other similar opportunities for online episode viewing at various broadcasters’ and programs’ sites. And YouTube is loading up on “real” TV content. The key question: Will TV viewers turn to these services as the writers’ strike continues and broadcast and some cable content goes gray? My guess: No.

2. Projects like QuarterLife [the MySpace series of 8-minute minisodes that’s pretty much about web video, from the creators of thirtysomething] will get an early proof-of-concept opportunity. Will folks who have turned away from the rerun-rich plasmatron go online to view even this program, which is crafted so specifically for online users and for this moment in time? Word just came out that the series will run on “real” NBC in January, so the online version will get a boost from the established broadcast medium. I still foresee no huge audience for it.

3. We’ll find out how many sofa spuds generally really do boot up their computers as the reruns continue. This will provide some data to test the widely accepted hypothesis that TV viewership is down because viewers are spending the time on the web instead.

My self-serving prediction: The remote control operators in the household will stay right on the couch and simply watch more “unwritten” cable, premium movie channels and on-demand content. The beneficiaries of the writers’ strike won’t be Hulu, Joost, YouTube or other web video schemes. They will be the The Discovery Channel, History Channel, the BBC, TVland, Survivor (it’s still on TV, really!), the Biggest Loser, and local cable systems’ on-demand fare.

Oddly enough, if I am right, the whole strike is meaningless anyway. It’s based on the idea that web users in huge, monetizable numbers will view half-hour and hour-long broadcast content on their computers.

Which means either I am wrong–at least a 50-50 chance, I’d say–or that those writers are out there pressing for a fair chunk of revenues that may never come.

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Hulu, Web Video and That Scary Kid from High School

31, October, 2007

As I’m writing this item, a second browser window on my computer is open and playing a video of Michael Scott and company meeting in a Dunder Mifflin conference room.

we armak fur infinitee paperfessional

to help us make itlater so it’s ajhhhh not too shabby

Ah, those cut-ups at The Office! Listen’ to ’em go at it!

so, Anybod it take car anima tried to do a logo

luug a da

eeaativity!


I suppose I need to explain that the dialogue I’m quoting is from a video of The Office embedded on the blog of Hulu, a new video service just launched by NBC/Universal and News Corp. The service is still in beta and very few free-living humans, aside from some media people and one analyst at Forrester and Co., have laid eyes on it.

Some venture capitalists and assorted bigbrains have proclaimed Hulu a “YouTube Killer.” By this they mean one of two things: (a) Hulu may demonstrate that big media companies can control distribution of their own content in a digital world; or (b) Hulu may prove someone has a freaking clue how to make money by streaming video on the web.

But for insight on business matters I always defer to the Sage from Scranton:

I wan youngwik cutTV on crack!

ind of ing. . .

What Michael in his infinite wisdom is saying is, a computer is a pretty crappy way to watch video.

It’s true that my broadband connection at this moment isn’t great–it’s one of those free hotel-room networks–which likely explains the Tourette’s-like vibe in the Dunder Mifflin conference room. But even when the sound is working right, a small screen isn’t something you cozy up your Barcalounger to.

I’m afraid the folks at Hulu don’t stay home and watch TV enough. If they did, they’d realize that nobody is going to sit through an hour-long drama on the notebook computer, even one of those swank 19-inch multimedia jobbies with cool speakers. Where does the viewer sit? In a desk chair for an hour with fingers poised at the keyboard? Maybe if you have wireless you watch it in bed until your neck cricks.

Or how about this: Just bring that flashy new Dell in front of the couch in the family room, and set it on top of the TV. Look, hon: A 19-inch color TV with no remote! Ain’t America great?

I know vast fortunes will rise and fall as investors try to figure out how to capture some of that YouTube fairy dust. But some pretty bright people seem to be confusing the technical ability to transmit video to computers with the desire to watch broadcast TV shows that way.

Note to Hulu: People aren’t deserting TV because they don’t like the device. They’re deserting because they like what’s “on” the computer better. By sticking your broadcast TV content on the web, you’re acting like that creepy-sad kid in high school who, after the girl breaks up with him, follows her around all day long hoping she’ll reconsider.

Dude: She’s just not that into you.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe these broadcasters really are onto something. They are, after all, big, successful corporations with decades of experience mastering the nuances of the American appetite for entertainment. Maybe their lurching attempts to press their decreasingly popular products onto the very people who have deserted them is not a fatal miscalculation.

I am certainly no expert on these things. For advice on these matters I turn, as I often do, to the Sage of Scranton:

a creative profess

how abou dampain?

ood luck Michael