Hulu Gears up for Launch


With “hundreds of thousands” of users in its private beta and three times the amount of content it had at launch, Hulu is readying itself to open to the public in the next two months.

Hulu CTO Eric Feng stopped by NewTeeVee HQ this week and shared a progress check as well as some forward-looking thoughts on the product he’s been building since last summer, when Hulu acquired his video markup company Mojiti.

Chris and I were particularly interested to hear about Hulu’s engagement figures. Feng said users are spending more than half an hour on the service at a time, and they appear to be more interested in full-length shows than clips. More than 80 percent of the entire Hulu catalog is watched each week, he said.

Hulu does want to internationalize — Feng more than anyone, as he manages half his engineering team in Beijing — but is concerned that the site can only get authorization to show foreign users a small portion of content. In the meantime, Hulu is improving flexibility in other areas. Whole seasons of ongoing shows like 30 Rock are now available instead of the “five-week trailing” limitations (meaning older episodes would expire) the site started with.

Feng said the writers’ strike has been a double-edged sword for Hulu: fresh video is harder to find, but the demand for archived shows has spiked. Speaking of which, Feng noted that the Sony TV catalog — a deal that was struck just as Hulu was beta-launching — just recently started coming online. Just in case you’d forgotten Who’s the Boss.

Feng seemed more pleased than not with efforts by outsiders to replicate the Hulu library using its embeddable player. “People have gotten really creative because there’s demand for the service that we can’t meet and I think that’s exciting,” he said. Still, Hulu sent a cease-and-desist letter to OpenHulu, and said that Veoh was breaking its terms of use. One interesting potential extension of Hulu’s official partner program: The company is considering making a self-service model for its player so that a fan site for the Office, for example, could embed the entire library of the show.

In the video embedded above Feng talks about Hulu’s efforts to improve the quality of its service, as well as how the company hopes to get it on platforms beyond the PC browser. (For some reason I got all soft-voiced when we were taping, so I added subtitles to ease the strain on your ears.)

First five people to comment on our lovely new office backdrop (or hey, the substance of the interview) get a Hulu invite. Newsflash: Hulu is actually giving NewTeeVee/GigaOM readers 2000 more beta invites. Apparently they’re looking for more early adopter folks to come in and watch sci-fi shows and make feature requests for nerdy things like RSS feeds. Just kidding! Though if you want The Hills you’ll have to go to Joost. For Hulu, go here.


Liz Gannes

Someone just asked me if Eric spoke about Hulu’s plans to add more HD content. He did, so I figured I’d post here in case other people have the same question.

Eric said they expect to continue to add HD content over this year. They are going to start offering both HD versions and non-HD versions of shows and movies when they can. They don’t expect this to be accessible to a large part of their audience, though, because of hardware and bandwidth requirements.

Liz Gannes

Yeah Frank, I think that is pretty interesting too. Couple notes from what Eric said about that:

  • Hulu wrote a crawler specifically for other networks’ sites
  • They want to be THE place to go to watch TV online so they’re OK with pointing people off-site
  • They look at their top 500 search terms every day and make sure they have results for them

As an early adopter, but not a technical genius, I love the service and watch it practically every day. Firefly was a known show to me but I had only seen Serinity on HBO. I watched all the episodes in 2 weeks. Great service. I just wish the full screen quality could warrant me putting it on my 52 inch. Quality just isn’t there yet for full screen viewing.

Frank Sinton

What about the fact that they are crawling ABC and CBS content as part of When I searched for “Lost” on Hulu, I actually got a Lost page (and they even used the images from Of course, when you go to play an episode, it links to Not the greatest experience, but I can have all of the other functionality – add to playlist, RSS feed, etc.

Matt Hendry

As for platforms beyond the PC browser thats in the Hands of Abode who have yet to release the flash 9 SDK for Devices although HULU could develop a flash Lite version .

Thant brings us back to NewTeeVees latest obsesion Will it work on the Wii ??? That would take an update by Nintendo to make that happen and how many Wii users actually pay $5 for the Browser .

HULU would be better off developing their own Williwear Channel and have it ad supported and connected to peoples TVs ….maybe a HD Wii needs to come out before that is a reality.

Im still waiting for a Joost Channel on the Wii after a harassing their developers and executives for a year year , so here’s hope that some streaming Ad supported service will take notice of the opportunity the Wii presents with it large install base and goes with it in 2008 .

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