I’ve recently been turned onto Hulu, a site which shows TV programs for free, paid for with commercials, much like ordinary TV. To be honest, I think the format shows promise. You can watch any show you want at any time and there’s fewer commercials (probably because Hulu has lower operating costs).
But, I have noticed a few problems with the format and construction which may make it an impediment to going mainstream. If I were making an online network, this is what I would do:
1. Make it so it’s possible to watch on an ordinary TV.– Obviously, since Hulu is online you have to watch it on a computer. But watching TV shows and movies on a computer is uncomfortable. The screen is small, resolution is usually poorer than television, and the vast majority of people have their living rooms centered around the television, since it’s been around for the past fifty or sixty years. I’ve always said (though maybe not on this blog or The Other Blog, I can’t be sure), any new technology has to relatively easily fit into the existing infrastructure of the end user. Otherwise it’s just too much of a strain and the technology dies, or is at least relegated to obscurity.
One way to accomplish this is to basically have something like a cable or satellite box. Hey, maybe you could have an existing cable or satellite provider carry it. Or perhaps launch your own provider (though that again tends to run a bit contrary to, let’s call it the the Existing Infrastructure Law, or EIL).
2. Offer Original Programming.– Hulu does put some originally programming on, but it’s not much. To really be competitive, they should commission their own programs, again, much like television networks do.
3. Keep It Free.– Hulu is of course, free, and so is broadcast television (discounting cable and satellite fees if you have those, which, most people do), paid for by advertising. It’s a business model that’s worked very well for them, and radio and newspapers, magazines, etc. (though those last two have a small price attached, most of their revenue is from advertising).
4. Offer Web 2.0 Compatibility.– User-content created websites like YouTube, Wikipedia, WordPress (hey! nice self-reference!), etc. have exploded in popularity over the past few years. Believe it or not, Youtube is only 4 years old. Wikipedia is 8 years old, and has seen its content double roughly every year (though this has slowed in recent years). Having the ability to load and view your own and others pictures and videos easily would be a popular feature on the TV-based medium.
I think that a network with those features would be quite competitive with both existing networks and internet sites. It’s sort of a fusion of all the best qualities of TV and internet and we will likely see something very similar in the coming decade or two.