Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Hulu Shimmies Into the Public Eye


After a few months of private beta, Hulu will open itself to the public tomorrow with a full-court press of publicity.

Hulu kind of deserves at least a little more attention, despite efforts by some to look for warts in the online video service, which is a joint venture between NBC Universal (GE) and News Corp. (NWS)–owner of Dow Jones, which owns this site–with $100 million in private equity from Providence Equity Partners.

But, as I wrote back in late October, Hulu has been a pretty decent effort on the part of slow-moving media companies, despite some problems here and there that I noted.

Still, I wrote: “Hulu’s willingness to send its content far and wide from the get-go, with very little friction and using easy tools to do so, is perhaps the most compelling aspect of its debut.

Finally, someone in Hollywood has realized that ubiquitous distribution, which is being driven by consumers’ desire to move their media anywhere they want, whenever they want, is the future.

To shine itself up for new U.S.-only users, Hulu is adding more premium content, including about 100 full-length movies and also upping its television offerings to 250 full-length episodes.

The new licensing deals include Warner Bros. Television Group, Lionsgate, NBA and the NHL, and the movies include cult hits like “The Big Lebowski.”

In addition, Hulu is launching a new ad offering that lets users pick their own products to learn about and linking full movie trailer ads with content it relates to, which would then be streamed without interruption. For example, a trailer for the movie “Juno” might be seen before the television series “Arrested Development,” since both star actors Jason Bateman and Michael Cera.

Hulu CEO Jason Kilar said he knows there needs to be a lot more professionally produced content on online video sites like Hulu from a wider range of content creators.

Hulu, for example, doe not have popular NBC shows like the “Law and Order” franchise, since it still has not reached an agreement with its powerful producer, Dick Wolf.

“We are trying to build the kind of audiences where we can monetize it well for all content creators,” Kilar said in an interview, noting the site had attracted five million users over the last 30 days. “When we have that economic power and an even larger audience, I think level heads will prevail in getting more and more content to consumers.”

And when that happens, as I wrote back in the fall, Hulu has done a nice job so far in designing the easy-to-use service, including allowing users to grab their own clips, although there are some small quibbles with its player (it can be slow, for example, but–to be fair–every Internet video site is slow).

In addition, Hulu’s business model, in which it shares ad revenues with content creators (for content that comes mostly from its owners), is still nascent and potentially problematic (see this interesting analysis from Silicon Alley Insider, for example).

But I do love those movable clips and I think the public will too, ads and all.

For example, here is a recent entire episode of my new favorite show, “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” (How much do we love Summer Glau’s flat affect as a teenage cybernetic organism? So much), which I easily embedded here:

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I’m a giant vat of creative juices.

— David Pogue on why he’s joining Yahoo