So Hulu, the joint venture between NBC and News Corp. that some thought would be a YouTube competitor, has sort of launched — or at least it has given some of the chosen few in Silicon Valley a look at the service. As far as I can tell from most descriptions of it, it sounds like a video-distribution network that will compete more with Brightcove and other similar video services than it will with YouTube.
In other words, it has nothing to do with “user-generated content” or people uploading video — it’s all about network content from NBC and News Corp., distributed through a Flash player that can be embedded on other sites and will be white-labeled to partners such as AOL and MySpace. Still, the early impressions seem positive; even Kara Swisher seems to like it, and so does MG Siegler at ParisLemon.
To the extent that NBC and News Corp. are getting the idea that distributing your content by any means available is a good thing, I think Hulu is a positive step. But as Mark Hendrickson points out at TechCrunch, this is still very much a TV-centric model — that is, shows and content appear and disappear based on the TV schedule. It may be flashy and well-designed, but I wonder whether it will be compelling enough to really draw people in.
Henry Blodget at Silicon Alley Insider has a nice rundown of the things that make Hulu less thrilling than it appears, and one of those things is the restrictions on the content that Hulu distributes. And Liz Gannes has more on that angle as well — as she puts it:
“Hulu can’t avoid the trappings of big media. The company is tied up in a contradictory situation, where it’s chartered to have web-wide distribution while trying to maintain tight control over the user experience wherever it goes.”