Happy Birthday, Hulu.com! I knew you’d make it

October 29, 2008

It’s not really a birthday party, since this is only the anniversary of Hulu.com’s beta launch. Which is all the more amazing considering how far it has grown in a year — when half of that year was conducted in private beta. Since its official launch in March, Hulu can now boast that in September nearly 150 million videos were streamed.

This is phenomenal, it’s precisely the year-end target I had for Hulu in December. Now I have to ratchet that up to 200 million. To go from 0 to 200 in under a year is remarkable. Consider that in its best months, Comcast VOD streams 300 million video views. That’s a big number. Hulu will be at the level some time next year. Without having to invest in VOD servers the way Comcast did.

That’s right, folks, Hulu is here to stay. And <bashfully> I have to admit I called it. A year ago today, I published a report called Online Video Syndicator Hulu.com Overperforms At Beta Launch. I said:

Today Hulu.com, the NBC Universal and News Corp. online video joint venture, launched a private beta test that beats our expectations of what the company would achieve. It syndicates video, enables sharing, and does it all with top-notch content and a design flare reminiscent of Apple. If Hulu can keep expenses down, the company stands as a threat to competing online TV companies like Joost, as well as old-line cable companies and telco TV entrants.

Specificallly to cable companies, I warned:

itemCable companies and telco TV providers can begin the fear watch. By delivering a solution that advertisers want, syndication partners are happy to implement, and consumers will easily lap up, Hulu has assembled an experience directly comparable to that offered by cablecos and telco TV companies. Think about it: You have first-run TV shows, classic TV reruns, and movies from the back catalog. All you need is a pay-per-view option for new releases, and you might as well call Cox Communications, Time Warner Cable, or any of the rest and cancel your TV subscription while simultaneously opting for the fastest Internet connection they can possibly offer. That tells us what Hulu will offer next.

The warning is only stronger now as Hulu has even more content than it had back then and even more advertisers lining up to pay a premium on a CPM basis to participate. I hate to say I told you so…

Ironically, Comcast is a beneficiary of the Hulu experience since Hulu is the engine behind most of the content available at Fancast.com, Comcast’s online TV portal play. 

What about you? Are you a Hulu.com junkie yet? Are you doing just TV or have you browsed any of the hundreds of movies? I’m hooked on both. I’ve watched over 3 hours of video just on Hulu this week alone. That puts me squarely in the most engaged online viewer category and I have Hulu to blame.

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My take on how economy will affect video

October 15, 2008

As I have been promising/threatening, yesterday I completed my take on how a down economy will affect various types of video in the home. Forrester clients can read the full analysis here. 

Something I can share with everyone, client or not, is an interesting analysis I did on consumer spending on audio/video hardware. One of the questions I wanted to answer was what % of entertainment spending do affluent consumers account for. It turns out, a lot. In fact, the 45% of US households that earn more than $50K a year account for 79% of entertainment “fees and admissions” and 62% of audio/video equipment spending. That’s a lot. Interestingly, these wealthier consumer have been increasing their spending on audio/video tech less aggressively than average over the past few years. 

From the 14 October 2008 Forrester Research report, "Video Devices Vulnerable In A Down Economy"
From the 14 October 2008 Forrester Research report, 

Video Devices Vulnerable In A Down Economy

I get all of this from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey (a datasource which, if you know how use it, can answer many of life’s most important questions, and it’s all free).

Just as Jefferson famously said that “the tree of liberty must, from time to time, be refreshed with the blood of patriots and tyrants,” it is similarly true that technology markets must, from time to time, be challenged with a lackluster economy. Not quite as big a deal, but you get my point.

Overall, the losers are new technology platforms like standalone Blu-ray and premium content subscriptions. The winners — at a very critical time for all involved, I might add — are free online video services like Hulu.com and Fancast, including Netflix’s streaming services, newly enriched with additional content. So while Netflix has warned it won’t hit 9 million subscribers as originally hoped in 2008, the millions it does have will rely on the service more than before.


Joost goes flash

October 14, 2008

In yet another sign of the online video times, Joost today announced it would do Flash, Web-based streaming online at joost.com rather than relying on the proprietary, P2P client it launched back in early 2007.

My take: this is the right thing for Joost to do to match the friction-free experience sites like Fancast.com, Hulu.com, and nearly everywhere else is able to provide. Requiring that people download and run a separate application (not just a plug-in, as ABC.com requires) just isn’t consistent with the ease that online video has come to offer. Sure, it made sense in early 2007 when most top content wasn’t available online anyway. But that all ended when Hulu launched.

Furthermore: the days of the proprietary video player are gone. Sorry to Miro, Vuze, and the original Veoh player. There’s no need for a dedicated video aggregation application. the only chance for such a player is in the download for offline play world, which is where iTunes sits.

Adobe Media Player, a player designed to allow the downloading of streaming video for offline playback, is going to struggle in the balance for a while as people so excited about streaming don’t see the need for it yet. One of two things has to happen there: either people will eventually see value in offline playback, or wireless broadband will become so ubiquitous that we’ll never need untethered video playback. All depends on how fast Adobe can move the ball forward and convince big content providers to release their content for secure offline playback.