This is a guest post by Muhammad Saleem, a social media consultant and a top-ranked community member on multiple social news sites.
It was called a stupid idea at first and then ridiculed for its name. But once people had a chance to look at the site’s lineup of shows and try it out, it was praised as a worthy competitor. The service I’m talking about is of course Hulu, the multi-million dollar online television streaming (video on demand) venture between NBC Universal and News Corp. Most people haven’t had the chance to try the service yet because of the highly exclusive closed private beta but today we are talking with Matt, who has found a way to get around the “closed private beta” problem without breaking any rules.
Most online video services allow you to embed the videos into blogs and websites in an effort to increase their branding and in the hopes of driving traffic back to the originating site. But what would happen if someone took all your embeds and called it a day? Let’s find out.
Hi Matt, thanks for taking out the time to chat with us. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Well, I’m basically what you’d call an Serial Internet Entrepreneur. From writing for an online gaming magazine to producing a 72 hour game show, I’ve done it all. But on a more personal note? I like cold pizza and green tea, reading about quantum physics and debating whether or not there is a god. I don’t sleep and my eyes constantly burn from reading tech blogs in dim lighting. I am, to put it bluntly, addicted to and amazed with the power of the internet.
Before we get to OPENhulu, let me get your thoughts on online video and your favorite service for enjoying video on the web.
It really depends. When it comes to random videos I’m not really one to blindly browse YouTube. I’m more the guy who lets Digg or Break find the good ones first. Personally I like to use Revver. What can I say, I’m a sucker for the 50% ad revenue they promise.
When it comes to live streaming, however, I would go with ustream.tv. I’ve used many live streaming sites and ustream.tv is the easiest and fastest by far. Back in October I co- produced a 72 hour game show which was streamed live using ustream.tv. We ended up hitting the front page of Digg, peaking at 1.2k simultaneous viewers, and holding around 700 for 24 hours straight and the site didn’t lag once. (Disclosure: I recently represented them at Blogworld.)
What do you think about ABC and other companies that have launched their own web-based services to stream their shows online for free?
I think the whole spat with Apple was uncalled for and a bad move. However, TV has been going down hill for a while. The shows are often set at conflicting times and sometimes when you can’t possibly watch them. What if you don’t want to watch Heroes at 9pm? Maybe you have a business meeting, or your kid needs to get to somewhere. Well, iTunes was one approach to this but it was pay per view.
Online streaming services (such as Hulu), on the other hand, are free and you can watch all the TV shows on your own time and the only price is the advertisements that you have to watch a few times during each program. My only complaint would have to be the quality. It’s decent but not great.
One problem is that unlike ABC and some other television channels that stream their shows or parts of their shows online, Hulu is still in a closed private beta. I can tell you, I had a hard time getting my hands on an invite. Have you had a chance to check it out and what are your thoughts on the service as a whole?
I only got my invite a week or so ago and I’d have to agree with you, it definitely was not easy to get. Apart from the quality, I think its a great service. Obviously it’s not supporting every television channel but I wouldn’t be surprised if more and more either joined or started their own sites. Currently they have a little over 150 shows including some of my favorites (Heroes, The Office, Family Guy) and 18 different television networks.
Hulu has a suggest feature much like YouTube or any other video site, so really its not only a place to watch television shows but you can actually find new shows. Hulu really is too easy to not catch on. I can’t wait to see what happens when they come out of beta. I was just thinking the other day that its too bad not everyone can enjoy it right now.
And after thinking that, you came up with an idea so that anyone can enjoy Hulu without having to beg for invites. How did you manage to do this?
Well you see, Hulu allows you to embed the videos onto your blog or site. It’s supposed to be used to put one or two videos on your site, but what if you decide to put all of them? I’m working on putting all of Hulu’s embeds onto my own site, OPENhulu, using the site’s embeds. This way Hulu isn’t so much a “closed beta” and now everyone can enjoy their content.
It’s very tedious work but I know how much I personally value being able to stream quality television shows from the internet, and I imagine it’s the same for most other people. At the same time, what do i get out if? Well I’m really hoping I can help a few friends out without getting a cease and desist letter. Technically the only thing I’m doing wrong is using the name “Hulu” in my domain, so we’ll see what happens.
I mean, its not like I’m stripping the commercials from the videos or anything. Besides that its mainly the satisfaction of sticking it to the man and bending the rules. Hulu “invites” for everyone!
So you’ve looked through their agreements, terms of conditions and other legal text and have found that you’re not infringing on any of their terms? I hope you dont get sued either because I want people to be able to enjoy the service. But you have to take into account that the companies involved have hundreds of millions of dollars at stake. What makes it more troublesome perhaps is that you’re making money from your site.
As it turns out, the ads happened to be filled with NBC banners. So really, they’re paying to be on a site that consists of content completely ripped from themselves. As for their terms and conditions, I’ve looked through the documentation on their site and I didn’t find anything that was against this. If they fight me for some reason I’m going to be more than happy to shut the site down and fully comply with anything they ask.
So there you have it. If you’ve been unsuccessfully hunting for a hulu invite for a while, look no further than to OPENhulu.