As you may have heard, Hulu, one of the streaming services that has old TV shows, has undergone a major change. What set Hulu apart from Netflix or Amazon Prime besides a focus on TV over movies (although all three have both) was that the site was basically free. You had to sit through advertisements, and I know some of you out there hate that, even if it was only four 30 second clips with the occasional “sit through this special four-minute thing and you can watch the whole program for free” ad. (Poor babies. I bet watching shows on TV would kill you.) Maybe that’s why they changed things. Hulu is no longer free, and while I question this and a few other decisions it also holds bad news for the Saturday Night Showcase.
Hulu is a cooperation between ABC, Fox, and NBC when they (finally) saw the potential in web broadcasting to make money and bring us quality entertainment, although they only care about the latter because it causes the former. (CBS bowed out in favor of its own service, WB and UPN/The CW weren’t involved, and Ion and My TV Network weren’t around, and aren’t much of a network anyway since they have no original programming, just reruns.) The site is ad-supported (yes, “is” not “was”,,,I’ll get back to that) and allows rights holders to actually “air” the shows and movies they own the IP for to make them money. Instead of fighting YouTube they simply offer a better quality video, and those of us who like to support the official release (if it makes them money they may make more of it) can watch these shows guilt-free.
And until this week you didn’t have to pay for it. I’ve never been able to fit Netflix or Amazon Prime into my shrinking, and now nonexistent, budget. So being able to legally watch old sci-fi shows, anime, and cartoons for free makes me happy. And as a bonus there’s the feature that usually posts in this slot, the Saturday Night Showcase. When Vodpod was the only way I could post videos that wasn’t on my host’s “approved” list I still tried to get Hulu postings as best as I could since going through there disabled full screen for some reason. Then Vodpod was bought out by Lockerz and now that method no longer exists since they took what they could use and #%$# any of us who actually used that site for something important. I just tried to bring Lockerz site up and it may not even exist anymore. So thanks for nothing, guys!
Then WordPress.com came up with a shortcode so we could actually embed Hulu videos, with full screen viewing. (Anyone using WordPress software with a different host, either provided or through WordPress.org, just needs a plug-in.) Now I could put Saturday Night Showcase into high gear, and bring my readers any old shows they had the license for. (Although recently they lost a bunch of licenses, including a lot of the Filmation stuff I have posted here, thus reminding me why I wanted to add video reviews to my arsenal.) I can’t do that with Netflix. Hulu gets extra money when fan bloggers and article blogs like mine post their shows since they still get all the ad revenue. I don’t see a dime, but promoting things I like is part of what the Spotlight is for. And that’s a bit harder now.
What happened? No, really, I’d like to know. Remember, ABC is one of the founders of Hulu, so how did Netflix get Marvel shows when Disney owns Marvel and ABC, plus has their own streaming partnership with other sites? And that is one of the things Netflix and even Amazon Prime have been able to do. Their original programs seem to get the most talk, especially Netflix shows, and not just the Marvel offerings. At one point I was so tired about hearing about Orange Is The New Black. I find this odd as well. Netflix was started as a mail-in alternative to video rental stores like Blockbuster Video or kiosks like Redbox. Then they started posting the movies online as the internet allowed for high-quality video streaming. At some point they started creating original specials and series exclusive to their service. Then you have sites like Vudu who don’t have original programming but you can rent or buy by the movie or episode rather than pay $7.99. The difference is that with Vudu and sites with that model is you can stream it but you can also download and own it. With Netflix or Hulu it’s more like paying for a cable or satellite package. Even YouTube has a set-up like this now…if you can find the video site. They don’t even promote the gaming site anymore so if you don’t know how to get to it you lose out. They need to work on that.
Hulu wasn’t that way, though. You could watch for free, and you had an account so you could get into the discussions or keep a save of your favorites and track your queue for which episodes of a show you still had to watch. Hulu was the perfect alternative for those of us who couldn’t afford Netflix. And then something changed. A subscription was set up for some shows, as well as the ability to stream on smart TVs. (And now they even partner with some cable services to offer Hulu as an “on demand” style channel.) Apparently this either wasn’t enough or was floating a trial balloon to see if they could get people to pay for their service. I’m sure they could. Hulu had shows that Netflix didn’t. I can’t really tell you what Netflix had because, again, could never fit it into the budget. Besides, I had Hulu. I don’t anymore.
That’s because everything is now behind a paywall…a paywall that doesn’t make a lot of sense. I thought it was a good idea to say “sign up and pay so much a month and we’ll drop the ads for you”, but now there’s two tiers…and one of them STILL has advertisements on it! That means you’re still paying to see ads, and you can’t watch the site at all unless you pay something. That defeats the purpose of having the ads, right? Crackle is just shows Sony owns in one form or another and it’s still free as of this writing. I think the networks are just returning to form. “Netflix makes money with subscription only so we can do it, too.” Except that alienates us poorer folks and sets us right back to illegal uploads on YouTube and Dailymotion until we can save up for the DVDs (or Blu-Ray if possible), if that. Hulu was able to reach an audience that Netflix passed up, and now other streaming sites with lower-quality recordings (except for Crackle, but that’s Sony) since they’re uploaded by average people and the rights-holders are going to be screwed over by pirates.
Will this help Hulu “win” against Netflix? Probably not. Hulu offered something Netflix didn’t and vice versa. That’s how this game works. Every streaming site, free or subscription, has their own strengths and weaknesses. Trying to play Netflix’s game instead of their own is going to hurt them in the long run, like when WCW tried challenging the WWE instead of doing what worked for them. And now the WWE is the only top wrestling promotion, although TNA is giving it the best shot they can. Hulu needs to do their own thing and let Netflix do it’s own thing. Trying to play their game may do more harm than good to Hulu.
So how does this affect Saturday Night Showcase? Well, I obviously can’t look at a video to see if it’s worth posting the embed, so I can’t use Hulu anymore even if I was a paid subscriber. As of this writing the more recent SNS installments to use Hulu, Space: 1999 and UFO, are still working. However, a number of the Hulu shows I had up need to be re-embeded with a different code. (Long explanation.) And as I recall the Godzilla cartoon from Hanna-Barbera went behind the subscription wall a year or so ago even as an embed, so the days of those working may be numbered as well. Hulu is partnering with Yahoo on “Yahoo View”, which features some shows for free, but I can’t embed from there and who knows how long that will last? I need to check it out some more. This seriously alters what I can show you guys in this section because that’s fewer shows I have access to, at least for free, sometimes even lacking a YouTube or Dailymotion option. That would mean you would have to pay for it even if it’s on my site. Being able to embed shows and even make your own clips used to be one of Hulu’s selling points, but now that’s gone. Since SNS is about introducing you to shows you haven’t seen before Hulu is no longer a viable option.
It’s something I’ll have to check into when I come back, since I’ll be offline until at least October if not longer. That includes when I first come home because I’ll still be recovering and unable to do reviews and other stuff. I can still fall back on people I’ve only discussed in the Internet Spotlight, like other reviewers, original shows on YouTube, Dailymotion, or Vimeo, or webcomics, but I’m hoping Hulu returns to form someday. I already took the app off of my tablet because space is limited. Yahoo View or Crackle are viewing options, but not Saturday Night Showcase options, at least for now. It’s something to worry about when I get back to work but it’s still annoying.