Why Hulu is the best video service on the Web

CNET Networks blogger Don Reisinger thinks Hulu is the best video service on the Web. Is he right?

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
4 min read

Video is the next big thing on the Web, and more and more organizations are embracing it as the way to provide an equal experience for Web surfers who don't necessarily have the time to watch television during the day.

But for all the video services, and there are many, Hulu easily stands above the rest and provides us with the best programming and experience. Call me a cynic, but watching the junk on YouTube or the ridiculous garbage on Funny or Die just doesn't do it for me. Instead, I prefer to enjoy professional programming in a way that has never been allowed before.

But the beauty of Hulu goes far beyond programming. Hulu is real proof that the entertainment industry is slowly coming around to the idea of embracing the Web and not being afraid of it, and proves a point I've been making all along: most people are honest and are more than willing to do the right thing to enjoy their favorite shows.

Hulu is the first example of how to overcome the debilitating crossroads that we're now standing in and has shown with each passing day that where there's great programming and a free service, people will flock.

Hulu's programming may not be perfect, but it certainly eclipses any other video service on the Web. Where else can you find legitimate episodes of The Office, Battlestar Galactica, Family Guy, and Law & Order without needing to drop a few bucks or search through a programming guide to find out when it's coming on again?

With just a few simple clicks of your mouse, you're able to watch the show you missed last night (in most instances) and only sit through a handful of short commercials to do it. Now that's what I call a bargain.

But Hulu's programming goes far beyond just good TV shows. The service has countless offerings available at any time and its movie selection, although brutally unbearable just a few weeks ago, is starting to improve each day and now offers some hits like The Karate Kid, Men in Black, and The Fifth Element. Sure, they may not be The Godfather, but it's certainly a good step and a much better set of movies than those that originally launched with the site.

As much as I've taken television and film studios to task for the way they (mis)treat viewers, I can't help but applaud their efforts with Hulu. For the first time, these studios finally embraced the Web and have realized that there is a world outside the box sitting in a living room.

According to analytics retrieved from Compete.com, Hulu is currently enjoying unbelievable growth and has almost broken the top 1,000 list of most popular sites. Even better for the service, its inventory of ads is already filled and the demand for advertising on Hulu has outstripped supply.

Of course, the reasons for this are numerous and generally revolve around the fact that the programming is controlled and the demographics of viewers can be retrieved quite easily. But that doesn't downplay the fact that Hulu has quickly become an incredibly popular service because of the quality of its programming and the trust studios have placed in it.

And it's that trust that these studios need to remember when they consider the impact the Web will continue to have on their business models. Sure, television is still the key to their success and still brings in more revenue that Web programming ever has, but the future of programming is online and by getting a jump start on it now, they're readying themselves for the future.

But trust goes far beyond believing in a service and believing that it can adequately address the desires of consumers. Hulu should have also promoted a sense of trust in consumers, who have proven beyond reasonable doubt that they're more than happy to spend time watching shows on the service, rather than illegally download them. That's not to say that illegal downloads have stopped or that they won't be a part of the future, but Hulu's success does highlight one important point: if you give consumers what they want--high-quality programming for free on the Web--they will return the favor by watching the shows and allow you to reap the rewards in advertising revenue.

Unlike any other video service on the Web, Hulu has been able to capture the desire of viewers and create a product that delivers on everything we would want. And although I'd still like to see better movies and more episodes of popular shows would be ideal, Hulu is easily the best in the market and deserves to hold its place as the best video service on the Web.

Check out Don's Digital Home podcast, Twitter feed, and FriendFeed.