As soon as any new tech wave breaks from the vast, endless sea of start-ups, gadgets, and Twitter trends, I am always the first one to ride. For whatever reason, I was late to the Hulu party but now I’m not quite sure why I bothered RSVPing, let alone attending. Here’s the theory: offer easy-to-use online streaming of popular television shows and movies and support the typical advertising backend with embedded short, socially conscientious promotional material. Man, I have to say, that sounds AWESOME! And now the reality: HULUFAIL. Last night I wanted to watch some quality network television dramatic programming on the internet. To my horror, Kings has yet to post another episode beyond Ep 5: Judgment Day. The wheels in my head began turning: what is a new show I was mildly interested in watching but missed the premiere of? Joss Whedon’s next attempt at Buffy success, Dollhouse was the first thing that came to mind. And what episodes of the show was Hulu featuring? Episodes 8 – 12. I’m sure I can figure out what’s going on by starting with Episode 8 of a highly complex, sci-fi geek-out show about people who exist in multiple worlds at the same time… oh wait… I can’t, because my IQ isn’t 300.
Here’s the problem for me: if a television show was technically FREE when it aired (advertising costs yadda yadda aside, if I have rabbit ears I can still pull the signal off the air for free at least until June 12), then why in God’s name would someone limit the amount of episodes that are on a site designed to allow viewers to watch episodes a la carte? The fact that most shows only have the 5 most recent episodes with expiration dates attached to them seems like highway robbery to me. Is it a question of bandwidth? If Hulu can afford to hire Peter Berg to direct Super Bowl commercials starring Alec Baldwin, I’ll bet they can afford a few more servers. So what is it? At least when the recording industry consistently fails at monetizing the digital wave in a way that benefits everyone, they stop, sue somebody’s Grandma, and try something else. Hulu seems to be stuck in a similar Stone Age mindset. I can only assume that the reason they aren’t letting people get the content they deserve is a question of money (cashflow is the only reason the entertainment industry is ever biased about anything, thanks D. Rubes). I’d be very interested to see the statistics that suggest that offering more than 5 episodes of a TV show online (that initially aired on a network and are yet to be released on DVD) WITH embedded ads is a financial constraint on the companies that are producing it. A pie chart from a color printer, would be great actually.
The only saving grace for me in the whole Hulu experience is when the following error message comes up:
And I quote, “To ensure advertisements play properly…” and then “If you continue to experience issues, please email us…” Wait, WHAT? Let me get this straight: after not allowing me to watch more than 5 episodes of a current season of TV, they have the audacity to suggest that I should adjust my computer settings to allow ads to play properly? And if that doesn’t work I should take the time to send them an email? I have to hand it to you Hulu, you’ve got some balls. Here’s my tentative email:
I was so overwhelmed by the amount of streaming video you offer (5 videos per TV show?! you guyz are SO CrAzY, roflmao!) that when the unskippable advertisements didn’t play in the middle of my show, I almost dropped dead. Not only do I tune in to your site for the best variety of content around (Heroes AND Family Guy!?), the advertisements that are embedded in the videos are so important to me that sometimes I forget what show I’m watching. So when the ads wouldn’t load, I have to say, I almost threw my computer out the window in anger! Luckily you posted this message on what to do in case the ads aren’t loading correctly. If you didn’t I probably would’ve jumped off the nearest cliff (JK! My mom would KILL me hahahahaha).”
Hey Hulu: step your game up.