Hulu eventually launched on Wednesday to an almost equal amount of hype and cynicism.
While some people, such as former CEO of Disney, Michael Eisner, are convinced that due to emerging services like Hulu, Internet content will equal television withinin the next five years, others are less convinced.
Eisner is already producing his second digital-only series to prove his point. But what’s the reality of Internet video content?
Dan Frommer at Silicon Alley Insider says he got rid of his cable subscription, figuring he can save money in the long run by downloading content instead.
But as he notes, with Time Warner testing tiered bandwidth pricing, his broadband expenses may go up as a result.
Is Hulu The Answer?
I’m not convinced Hulu is the answer, or any of the current content models. Hulu sounds like a great idea, and since it’s “free” people sure are enthusiastic. But unlike my cable service with my DVR, Hulu forces me to watch commercials.
Sure, it lets me choose which commercial, or lets me watch a film trailer instead (hey, it’s still a commercial), but I thought the invention of the DVR pushed us past this model. Are we heading backward by going online?
iTunes & Unbox
iTunes has already missed its promised mark of having 1000 movies for rent by the end of February, severely limiting the choices that users have in downloading an online rental.
And Amazon Unbox’s recent survey sent to its users indicated that they are contemplating a retooling of the type of content they offer as well as how they serve it. (Here’s a hint, Amazon: untie Unbox from PC/Tivo – only downloads.)
Too Much Effort
So what is the reality of downloadable content? How many of us actually use it? The problem, as I see it, is that television in its current form requires almost no effort to get content; plop yourself on the couch, hit the remote, and you have scores of channels to choose from, with the content right at your fingertips.
The downloadable content model requires more effort, and if TV has taught us anything, it’s that we are inherently lazy. I may stumble upon a great show because I don’t like anything that I already know about, but if I have to go online to download a show, I have to know something about it to begin with.
Sure, there are always success stories like that of NBC’s The Office, which gained a larger fan base from Apple iTunes downloads, but the reality is that it already had buzz from the passive watchers who were just too lazy to change the channel after watching the program they wanted to see.
The other issue is what you are watching the content on. Aside from plane trips or passive commutes on trains or Google shuttles, how many of us actually sit and watch a program on a PC?
If you are downloading content, either you have a media PC serving content to your television or you are using something like Tivo and playing it from there.
I’m generally working or reading emails or paying bills if the television is on, meaning I’d have to push the content to the television anyway. And why would I want to tie up system resources serving programming to my television when cable will do it for me?
While I think the amount of content will certainly equal traditional programming as Eisner believes, until they come up with more of a push model than the current pull, regular old cable or satellite television isn’t going to disappear any time soon.
This article is based on a Profy post written by Cyndy Aleo-Carreira.
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