Hulu, WTF?

There seems to be a common timeline of really cool technology.

  • Step 1: Make something so incredibly cool, I can’t believe it’s a real thing. It’s really good, it always runs, and I fall in love!
  • Step 2: Change it for no apparent reason. (I guess I can adapt though…)
  • Step 3: Change it again, because the previous changes obviously weren’t enough. (Hmm, it seems to break a lot more now…)
  • Step 4: Add really annoying ads. Everywhere. Charge money for things that used to be free, and raise prices on things that used to be affordable. Make sure it breaks down during every other use. (Rinse and repeat any or all steps above. Until…)

  • Step 5: The day finally comes that some combination of steps 1-5 results in me discontinuing or seriously limiting my use of the product because it causes me such a headache. (iPhone and Facebook, I’m looking at you.)

It might be time to add Hulu to my Products-that-Went-“Step-5” list.

Many people use Hulu, and quite a few of them are using some combination of Hulu, Netflix, Redbox and television abstinence to avoid paying for really expensive Cable or Satellite. I am one of those people. A year ago, Hulu was awesome. The ads were reasonable: 1-3 commercials, 15-30 seconds each, at 2-5 breaks per 21-44 minute show. I loved the message board system, which was managed ‘in-house’. The wait time between a show’s network debut and Hulu posting was reasonable. It was great.

Then, for reasons I don’t understand, the delay between air date and posting date grew much longer. Each commercial break is at least 30 seconds, sometimes up to 1.5 minutes, and there are more breaks per show. Many shows require an $8 a month subscription fee, but still contain all the commercial breaks. The message board system was dropped and they now use Facebook comments. The community aspect changed dramatically.

When asked about these changes, the general reply is that Hulu does not control the wait time, and that more commercials were needed to generate enough revenue to cover demands from the networks. On the surface, that seems reasonable, but is that the whole truth?

Take, for instance, the Syfy Network. They allow the first four episodes of a series to post to Hulu one day after airing on the network, but every episode after that has a 30 day posting delay.

  • Syfy (and other broadcast and cable channels) are owned by NBCUniversal.
  • Hulu is owned in-part by NBCUniversal.
  • NBCUniversal is owned by Comcast Cable (and General Electric).

Hulu is also owned in-part by Fox and Disney-ABC, which have broadcast and cable network channels as well.

I’m starting to get the feeling that Hulu’s owners are a little upset at the number of people dropping their Cable subscriptions. (Consider the issues Netflix had with their Cable content providers, too.)

Over the summer, a rumor came out that Hulu executives had been tossing around the idea of requiring Hulu users to validate their accounts with a proof of Cable subscription.

What do I make of all of this? Cable and Network companies are worried that online content (free or paid) will drive us away from subscribing to cable. They don’t want consumers to drop Cable!

I’m guessing it’s not that online television is unprofitable. It’s that Cable television is more profitable, and perhaps needs the revenue more. They have a lot of aging equipment invested in cable television. They wanted to regain the money lost due to illegal streaming of shows, but they weren’t planning on losing subscribers. I bet that they want us to move back to Cable, and stop this internet-only viewing nonsense. You know, like the record companies ten years ago wanted us to stop all this internet-downloading and just buy the CD’s. If MP3’s are any indication of the winner in that battle, I wonder which will win out in the Cable vs. Streaming battle?

As of now, I will continue to use it for Fall programming as far as they will allow it, try not to read anything that might contain spoilers, and hope that they eventually realize I’m not coming back to Cable.

Not ever.

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