My wife is gone all week and when she’s out of town I quickly turn into an sad echo of me in my bachelor days, staying up super late every night and eating like crap. Well, that’s also probably a validÂ descriptionÂ of what I’m like when she is home. But there’s a difference in scale. For example, last night I found myself laying in bed watching TV until I couldn’t keep my eyes open, drinking tea and devouring a bag of veggie chips coating each one with spay-on easy cheese.
What made last night relevant to this post is that I wasn’t really watching TV on TV, I was watching hulu.com. Now, it’s important to point out that I have very strong feelings about theÂ separationÂ of the computer screen and the home video screen. I DO NOT believe that the two shouldÂ intertwine. Here’s why: First off, my home video setup is a projection system with a 13-foot screen while my computer screen is a 17″ mac book. Second, and actually more important, is that I want TV/Movie viewing to be a relaxing “experience” and therefore it should take place on my cozy couch. I also want it to be focused and typically don’t allow discourage laptop use during TV time. (The exception being my wife’s couch computer which I’ll cover a different day) ANYWAYS – Watching TV on a computer screen typically ruins my viewing experience either by forcing me into a different room (the one that I WORK in) and/or by forcing me into an uncomfortable position. Last night I basically just wanted to vegg out (with veggie chips!) and watch TV. But my TiVo is a little TiVoid of good shows right now, so I decided to give in and give hulu a try.
The experience is great, the video quality is great and most importantly, the user interface works very well inside of Safari on the mac. If you’re watching a full program (TV episode or movie) there are limited commercial interruptions and you can rate whether or not you like the commercial. Â Pausing and switching in and out of full screen is seamless. Â Seeking around in the show works well also – but you are forced to watch the commercials.
hulu is a streaming service and therefore requires a decent broadband connection. There is no way to download content to watch later. I also couldn’t figure out an easy way to ‘lift’ the content to be viewed on another device, like an ipod/iphone or my popcorn hour. I have an extremely fast internet connectionÂ at homeÂ (sometimes as fast as 20-30megs) and yet I DID experience some stalling where the video streaming pauses for a moment. I suspect that in an effort to prevent ripping hulu streams fairly close to the playhead, meaning that there’s not much buffer. Â If the internet bandwidth dips too much you get a slight pause. Overall it hasn’t been TOO annoying, but it does reinforce my argument about keeping video and computersÂ separate. However I’ll concede that If I’m going to watch TV on a computer, this is a really good way to do it.
Next is the content. hulu has a very broad range of shows, dating back toÂ Welcome Back, Kotter, WKRP, and Barney MillerÂ the slightly more recentÂ News RadioÂ and I was glad to see some of the animated shows that I worked on such asÂ Jackie Chan AdventuresÂ and Astro Boy.Â Â hulu also has current shows such as Burn Notice, Life and House in case you missed an episode – or in my case if your TiVo turned TeVil and f-ed you out of all your shows. Oh, and there’s also a decent selection of movies.
What I found strange is that not all content is full videos. Â Some tv shows and movies are only there as highlight clips, some TV Shows are missing key episodes, and some content has an expiration date. For example, I had missed the season premier of How I Met Your Mother. Â The main reason I decided to watch TV on the computer last night was to see that episode, but once I got all settled I discovered that hulu only has highlight clips of that show – no full episodes. Â Another example is thatÂ News RadioÂ is missing the very first episode. And the final example is that the season premier of the show Chuck expires today.
I’m sure there is a business reason behind it, but as a viewer it is a bit perplexing and annoying. I would expect them to continually build their library, but there’s almost a randomness to what they have and don’t have. We already have youtube for clips (crappy clips). I think the power of hulu is going to be the content and the quality of the content. The reason I was willing to watch it instead of regular TV last night was that the quality is decent and that the content was appealing. Â But the one show that I really wanted to see was missing (the season premier’s of How I Met Your Mother).
A couple of final notes. Â One is that in order to get the most out of hulu you have to register (for free). Also I’m not sure about the whole clip thing. You can make clips of shows and send them to people or (I think) post them on hulu, or embed them in your site. I did this last week to postÂ Chuck’s slam on the Zune. It’s a fun idea. The question is will these clip eventually expire? I like the idea of getting a clip and then deciding to watch the whole episode.
And finally, what would make hulu amazing would some way toÂ seamlesslyÂ integrate it into my home theatre system so that I could watch it on the wall from the comfort of my couch. PlayOn from MediaMall will stream hulu to your Popcorn Hour, XBox 360, or PS3 – but it’s via a Windows PC. The PC program streams the show from the hulu service, handling the DRM, and then bounces the stream to your media player. Â I wish there was a version for the Mac. Â Maybe nullriver can whip-up a solution for that. Or maybe Popcorn Hour will eventually be able to play hulu movies directly.
In the mean time, give hulu a watch. Unfortunately, it’s probably a glimpse into the future of television.