Hulu: HTML5 Isn’t Ready for Prime Time

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Hulu rolled out a number of updates to its video player today, including making it bigger, adding adaptive bitrate streaming, improving content recommendations and enabling users to receive more personalized ads. But there’s one thing that Hulu won’t be adding any time soon: support for HTML5.

In a post on the Hulu blog this morning, the company’s VP of product, Eugene Wei, writes that HTML5 video isn’t ready to serve the needs of all its “key customers,” which includes not just the millions of viewers who turn to the video site for on-demand content, but also its content partners and advertisers. In particular, Wei says that HTML5 lacks maturity in reporting, advertising and content security.

“We continue to monitor developments on HTML5, but as of now it doesn’t yet meet all of our customers’ needs,” he writes. “Our player doesn’t just simply stream video, it must also secure the content, handle reporting for our advertisers, render the video using a high performance codec to ensure premium visual quality, communicate back with the server to determine how long to buffer and what bitrate to stream, and dozens of other things that aren’t necessarily visible to the end user.”

Hulu hasn’t fully ruled out plans to support HTML5 at some point in the future — “technology is a fast-moving space,” Wei notes, and those features could be available later — but for now its approach is Flash-only. Hulu’s plans will keep its web videos off the iPad for the foreseeable future, but there’s still a good chance it could launch a paid video app on the device. Hulu has long been rumored to be interested in launching a subscription service, and an iPad app could help it to do so.

While Hulu is staying away from HTML5 video, other content providers — most notably CBS — plan to jump in head first. In an interview with NewTeeVee, CBS Interactive’s senior VP and general manager, Anthony Soohoo, said the broadcaster plans to ramp up the amount of CBS.com content viewable on the iPad over the next several months. By the time the fall TV season starts, CBS expects to have parity between the content that can be viewed on its website on the iPad with that which can be viewed on the PC.

Related content on GigaOM Pro: Can Anyone Compete With the iPad? (subscription required)

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