So, after an extended private beta Hulu.com launches publicly today with tv shows from Bravo, Fuel TV, FX, Sci Fi, Style, Sundance, and Oxygen.
More: Digg discussions, Wikipedia
Since I just posted about the advantages of peer based media distribution I find Hulu worth noting. It will be an interesting test of a centralized distribution for popular mainstream TV shows. Despite the fact that it's a huge improvement over past IPTV services it displays many of the shortcomings I speak of in previous posts. Some of these issues include:
1) Now that it's out of a limited private beta can it scale to meet demanad?
2) There is no subscription mechanism (i.e. RSS) or standardized interface (i.e. Miro) for subscribing to Hulu content as well as content from other distributors. In the long term can we really expect people to go around and visit 8 or 18 different websites in the future to catch up on their favorite weekly TV shows?
3) The Hulu interface is not conducive to important social aspects of the web that would encourage it's use... i.e. linking to shows, embedding shows in a web page, or even linking to a particular segment of a show for reference in discussion. These social aspects are the life blood of all websites, particularly where video is concerned (i.e. youtube) since more truditional search mechanisms don't work well on non-textual content such as video.
4) While a huge improvement over previous mainstream media attempts to bring tv shows to the web the general UI is still very cumberome by traditional TV standards. There is to much clicking, to many destractions, it has a non-standardized UI and has overly intrusive / even obnoxious advertising.
5) Hulu is not available worldwide. It is only available in the US. Meanwhile the market is increasingly global.
While I expect Hulu to have some degree of success until many of these aspects improve I would not expect to see a downturn in the peer based black/grey markets for mainstream media.