Hulu turns its back on viewer
It is 11:57 p.m. on Sunday night. I finish skimming the week’s reading assignments and let the Glee musical slide show on YouTube run through for the final time. Robed in matching pinstripe pajamas due to equal parts cool weather and cool fashion sense, I am ready for bed. I twist my monitor around to face my pillow and press full screen and play, for I am not going to sleep. I am catching up with my stories on Hulu.
For those of you still on dial-up, Hulu.com is a joint venture between the owners of NBC, Fox and ABC. The website offers their current television shows soon after broadcast plus various old shows and movies from their libraries. Hulu was the medium that introduced me to Arrested Development during finals week, later inducing me to buy it on DVD.
I bought the DVD due to the panicked notion that Hulu might take the series away from me before I had finished watching. I was only a few months off in my prediction, though, as a recent PC World article says a Fox executive announced that a subscription fee would be added to some of Hulu’s content in 2010. For me, it is as if 2010 is the new 2012 – the end of a world.
Broadcasting & Cable, a trade magazine for television broadcasters, quotes News Corp’s Chase Care: “I think a free model is a very difficult way to capture the value of our content. I think what we need to do is deliver that content to consumers in a way where they will appreciate the value … Hulu concurs with that, it needs to evolve to have a meaningful subscription model as part of its business.”
I always knew that Fox and News Corp were against freedom, but I suppose this is to be expected from a combination of the most murderous doctor on House and my least favorite 1990s comedian. Let us dissect this statement.
Exactly how high do they value their content? A portion of the offered movies are loser sequels made to cash in on great movies. Sorry Hulu proprietors, but DVD sales of Grease 2 will always fall somewhere short of Greased Lightning – somewhere short being between epoxied drizzle and desiccated dew. You should be thanking me for the fractions of pennies you earned when I watched the movie out of sheer curiosity.
Or perhaps you mean your current offerings? Only your test audiences told you to pay millions for such tepid offerings like Community, The Cleveland Show and Sit Down, Shut Up, so why do you expect me to reimburse you?
The fact that the long-canceled Arrested Development is fourth on their list of all time -popular shows is telling. Additional zombie shows like Firefly and Kings show up on page two and are ahead of 24 and The Cleveland Show, respectively. You can find purgatory-bound Scrubs on page four, but you have to get past Babylon 5, NewsRadio, and Doogie Howser M.D. first.
Of course I can understand why their advertisers are reluctant to pay. Consider that the audience is people who use the Internet often enough to watch shows for big blocks of time. I am a male college student with no income and whose highest employment position was “guy in the mascot suit.” Do they really expect me to buy a Toyota Prius, birth control and antidepressants after an episode of Bones? Maybe if I was a student at Smith College.
My favorite use of Hulu’s television content is for watching shows I missed. If I watch a missed episode on Hulu, then presumably the network still gets some advertising revenue. Apparently, this system is too reasonable. So, some networks force an eight-day delay between airing an episode and uploading it. I operate on a seven-day calendar, though, which ensures that I can’t watch a previous episode until after the more current one airs. The final season of Battlestar Galactica got this treatment, giving me a choice between dealing with time hiccups in the plot or acquiring the missing episode elsewhere. University internet connections render the dilemma moot, I’m sure, for others. Not me, of course, but for others.
I think the goal behind founding Hulu was to watch it fail. The Internet is a huge threat to the entertainment industry because it challenges the old broadcast model of producing large amounts of crap and getting paid to do so. Remember UPN and The WB? Hulu was a dishonest truce between networks and a more discerning audience. After they introduce the subscription and thus ensure utter failure, executives will whine to Congress about how they tried to play nice. Their preferred solution will be to draw and quarter perpetrators of copyright and fair use violations.
Watching network CEOs play the part of Howard Beale is by far the most original idea since the invention of the medium itself.
Chris Amorosi is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.