How Hulu Redefined Online Video

2 min read

It could be argued that the much admired video-sharing site, Hulu, has redefined the whole business of online video. At least I hope it can because as the title suggests, that’s exactly what I’m about to try and do.

Wild West Video

Web video is still very much in its infancy. It may ultimately be one of the most popular things to do online but the business still feels like the Wild West, with entrepreneurial gunslingers fighting it out with the big-name, big-business sheriffs.

The main reason for this is the lack of a cohesive and universally workable revenue solution. Even the big guns such as YouTube are struggling to come to terms with how to turn sizable visitor numbers into cash in the bank.

Has Hulu Got It Figured Out?

There is one site which seems to have it all figured out though, and that is Hulu. This young upstart may have the backing of NBC Universal and News Corps., two members of the old media guard, but it’s still had to launch and grow the same as any other video start-up.

Hulu launched late in 2007 under the stewardship of Jason Kilar. It entered a world where online video, thanks mainly to the insane popularity of YouTube, was on the up. But there was a problem in that user-generated content just didn’t seem to be a sector capable of generating income.

UGC Vs. Professional Content

UGC also wasn’t exactly the forte of NBC and News Corps., the two companies teaming up to develop Hulu. There was also the small problem that allowing user uploads on a site risked legal action from companies insistent that any use of its content was illegal and wholly the fault of the site owner. The result of which can clearly be seen in the ongoing Viacom Vs. YouTube lawsuit.

Hulu launched with just professional content, and that is still how the site operates now. Advertisers have since flocked to the site, knowing viewers will actually want to watch the latest TV shows and movies. Google is rapidly realizing viewers aren’t always that interested in watching someone walk their dog, and even if they are, advertisers aren’t keen.

This means Hulu is now in the enviable position of having sold out its advertising stock. Not only that, but with a fraction of the traffic enjoyed by YouTube, it’s estimated to be making more profit than the Google owned market leader.

Free and Streaming


also offers streaming only, not getting bogged down with the DRM measures needed to offer downloads. And unlike Joost when it started, there was never a need for a software download – just watch your favorite piece of television right in the browser of your choice.

Then there is the fact that Hulu is 100 percent free to its users. Thanks to that solid advertising model mentioned above, there’s no need to charge users a premium to watch content they could otherwise get for free on TV. And that’s of utmost importance for Internet users who resent paying a bean for content they know they could obtain by other, less legal, means.

One Hurdle Left To Overcome

Hulu is not perfect, and especially not for people such as me who are resident outside of the U.S. But those unnecessary territorial rights licensing agreements can be worked around thanks to proxy servers, at least until a better solution is found.

And that’s the thing. As a Brit, I want to be able to watch Hulu freely because it is, to my mind, the best online video service out there. It has redefined the online video sector and shown the way forward which others will undoubtedly copy. NBC and News Corps. now just need to realize that the world wide web is so-called for a reason.

[Via The Economist]