Space Ramblings

Is Hulu Set to Move TV Beyond the Networks?

Anyone who has been paying attention to the dropping viewership of the major networks can’t help but realize that the end of the TV Network is not far away. Today’s hits are shows that would have been considered disasters ten years ago. The numbers that make today’s shows a hit today are simply a joke. The Office’s big ratings successes are equivalent to the dropping numbers for Star Trek Voyager, a show that was in the below 100 ratings basement when it aired on UPN or the series finale of Star Trek DS9. Despite its stupid name, it seems like Hulu.com is not as stupid or incompetent an implementation of network understanding that TV needs to go to the web as it seems.

For one thing Hulu.com appears to understand that it needs to offer a wide variety of programs in a clean and simple interface, a long way from the cluttered NBC site. It understands the economics of it, allowing external sites to embed ad supported movies and TV shows and share a portion of the ad revenues with them and with the creator. It’s the kind of system I’ve advocated for a while.

The New York Times is questioning whether Hulu can make money when even YouTube has trouble doing so. But the Times is forgetting a few things.

1. Hulu doesn’t have to worry about dealing with the social networking culture of users, it simply delivers straight programming, no spam or ban diversions or worries about being sued or threatening by the King of Thailand.

2. Hulu can count on higher ad rates based on network relationships and because networks can focus on individual shows and movies as brands. I mean what exactly is YouTube offering advertisers? Go advertise on 1000 videos of nerdy guys and girls talking into webcams about their underwear, Ron Paul, Ayn Rand and how much homework sucks? Or 1000 videos of failed skateboard tricks? By contrast Hulu can say, we’re offering ad space on Master and Commander. Or The Office. Guess which one wins?

3. By revenue sharing with major websites, Hulu can boast more reliable distribution than YouTube, which mainly gets around blogs and small sites.

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