Kara Swisher

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I'm Hulu. James Hulu.

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It seems the media industry across the pond is taking its cue from Hulu, the fledgling U.S. online video effort from NBC Universal and News Corp., at offering consumers TV content online in better and more flexible ways.

bbcc4itv

Three of the main British TV networks–the BBC, ITV and Channel 4–are planning a joint on-demand service, so consumers can see professional video programming of all kinds in one place.

It’s another step in the right direction by media giants for consumers–well, in Britain, at least.

Such a move is akin to all four U.S. majors (CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox) joining together in a helpful service. But don’t hold your breath on that happening anytime soon.

I gave good props to Hulu, which debuted recently, noting it was the first time traditional media companies had created a product that was more aimed at consumers than protecting their own vested interests.

But the Hulu service also is frustrating, like having a television set that only gets a small number of stations and then having to use another TV and then another if you want other channels.

Television’s success had a lot to do with it being a one-stop destination, while online video on the Web is still dispersed in ways that makes it hard for any one thing to take off.

Perhaps it cannot be that way on the Web for U.S. users, despite many efforts to do so, but such a confused approach hinders the distribution of professional online video content. (The user-generated vomiting-cats-on-skateboards fare does fine on its own in getting found.)

So, it will be interesting to see what happens with the U.K.’s effort.

Set to be launched in 2008, Britain’s version will add free downloads and purchase (something Hulu does not do now), as well as streaming, rental and eventual distribution to other platforms.

The BBC, for example, has tried this on its own with its much maligned iPlayer service. Said one British techie I asked about it on a recent trip: “It’s grotty.”

The iPlayer will continue, as will ITV’s current online service. Channel 4′s 4oD will cease to exist.

Channel 4 CEO Andy Duncan said that’s because the new effort would “give viewers ultimate control over what they watch and when they watch it.”

Of course, that’s bloody brilliant.


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When AllThingsD began, we told readers we were aiming to present a fusion of new-media timeliness and energy with old-media standards for quality and ethics. And we hope you agree that we’ve done that.

— Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg, in their farewell D post