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March 31, 2009

What's New At Hulu and How YouTube Is Fighting Back

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Hulu Last week was the first anniversary of a milestone in online video: it was Hulu's birthday and across the internet, tech and video gurus alike are taking stock of the popular video site. Just as I predicted in my post about the site last year, Hulu has become a huge hit.

It's the go to site for to catch up on primetime TV shows you might have missed, check out the latest episodes of "The Daily Show," celebrity gossip with Access Hollywood, or classic episodes of "Friends."

Want to catch up with this season's "ER" episodes before the series finale? Hulu is where you'll find them and a preview of the finale:

At 24 million users a month, Hulu is now the "No. 2 video site on the web after YouTube" and to celebrate its birthday, Hulu unveiled a social networking feature called Hulu Friends.

Camille Ricketts describes the new service in an article for Venture Beat:

Now, when you sign into Hulu, you'll find a bunch of new options that let you create a detailed social profile, and a new interface not all that different from Facebook's with tabs to view a feed (called a Hulu "Scorecard"), profile data, friends, etc. The launch of Hulu Friends marks the site's debut into online community building, and is probably the first of many developments in this direction.

YouTube has been watching the phenomenal growth of Hulu with a wary eye. They too want a bigger piece of the advertising pie but Chris Thompson of the blog, The Big Money explains why that's been difficult for them to achieve:

YouTube, meanwhile, has struggled to figure out how to attract advertisers spooked by the amateur video clips and format that buries more professional (and ad-supported) films beneath a cacophony of submissions. Now, YouTube has reportedly figured out how to respond: steal Hulu's best ideas.

According to the digital-advertising news site Clickz, YouTube will roll out a complete redesign next month, one that will highlight professional movies and TV shows with commercials and sponsors.

The new design will also toss onto the technological trash heap, YouTube's "messy pages of disorganized content.

Like many online videophiles, I'm a big fan of Hulu's slick interface and uncluttered player and I think it's been an unsung secret weapon in Hulu's battle for online video supremacy.

That doesn't mean however that YouTube doesn't have a few other tricks up its video sleeve. Just today, Disney announced a deal to air "short form" video clips from ABC-TV and ESPN on YouTube beginning in mid-April.

According to the Disney press release:

"Reaching and engaging fans is paramount in all that we do as a company, and YouTube is a great platform to achieve that goal," said George Bodenheimer, co-chair, Disney Media networks, and president, ESPN and ABC Sports. "Making our content available to fans via YouTube presents an extraordinary opportunity for ESPN to create new revenue streams and new value to advertisers, as they continue to look for new ways to connect with fans in the digital environment."

Some popular primetime programming included in the ABC/YouTube internet deal: "Lost," "Desperate Housewives," and "Brothers and Sisters."

However Disney may be hedging their bets because Paid Content.org reported last week that the company was in serious talks to buy a stake in Hulu as well:

It's not clear how much of Disney's television programming is involved beyond ABC-a second source says all Disney content has been discussed but it centers on ABC; other possibilities could include ESPN (not likely given ESPN's reliance on license fees from cable operators and others) and, if not the Disney Channel, some offshoots. The discussions, dormant for a while, have picked up again recently and are described as "serious" by both sources. A third source close to the situation said the discussions with Disney are "definitely real"-and more so than before-but cautioned against saying any deal has been reached.

It remains to be seen how today's announcement will affect any negotiations Disney might have with Hulu, if at all, but it's obvious that the online video wars, kinda like the late night comedy wars, are here to stay.

Related Links:

Casi Kneebone of Bite Marks looks back on Hulu's first year.

YouthDesigner, "Hulu vs. YouTube, Will Design Decide The Winner?"

Hulu Solves Online Video Puzzle, Cashes In

Murtada wishes Hulu a Happy Birthday

Cross Posted From BlogHer


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