Blog Post

Hulu: HTML5 Isn’t Ready for Prime Time

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 (s aapl) 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 (s 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 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)

46 Responses to “Hulu: HTML5 Isn’t Ready for Prime Time”

  1. Greg Myers

    Well that’s fine with me. I was spending way to much time watch stuff on HULU. Having an iPad helped me kick the habit since my laptop no longer leaves my house. I suppose I will watch again sometime, but it is not like I need it.

  2. Great piece Ryan. We at Delve Networks think HTML5 is a key technology which we support and continue to invest in but we also think that it needs maturing before it can meet all of the needs of our customers.

  3. Ken Jackson

    I have no problem with Hulu trying to find ways to monetize their content. If they provide enough value for their ads or whatever, good for them.

    Lets be clear, if Hulu makes no money from their content, and the site is purely a sink for money, how long do you think it will be around? Not very long, unless a company like Google buys it, who is happy to subsidize it for other purposes.

  4. Stephen

    Translation: we don’t give a rats ass about the millions of iPhone, iPad and iPot touch users out there until we can bring the PAID app out!

  5. Wow Logic


    “What’s this that Steve Jobs keeps blathering about the iPad’s accessing content on the web without Flash?”

    Dummy – Hulu doesn’t work on any devices they are BLOCKING it. Good God.

  6. @wow logic, I care because that’s how I watch 80% of my TV.
    I am perfectly willing to watch ads in exchange for time shifting my viewing – for free.

  7. Wow Logic

    Pretty simple reason here. Hulu can’t offer a product to devices without striking up controversy with their content owning parents.

    Folks, Netflix IS the market leader in terms of streaming technology. Why we still care what Hulu does is beyond me. I long for the day when their content exclusivity period comes to an end so we can get over this site and it’s legacy user experience.

    • Ryan Lawler

      I think we still care about what Hulu is doing because it has the most NEW TV content available on the Web today. As great as Netflix streaming is, I can’t watch the most recent episodes of my favorite TV shows there, and that doesn’t seem like it’s going to change anytime soon.

      • Wow Logic

        Can’t watch them yet is the key in terms of Netflix. The Hulu exclusivity around this content is hurting our entire industry.

      • DrClue

        I used to watch HULU , commercials and all.
        In a weird kind of way , I sorta like commercials ,
        at least a little as shows designed to have commercials
        seem a little strange without them.

        That being said , HULU will probably see me
        watching TV on there site again when they figure out
        how to do HTML5

        Using watermarking and a scripted antidote
        so that viewing the video out of context or attempting to save the file would yield but yuck to the content thief.

        There is no need for DRM to be present in the
        video CODEC to achieve content protection or to enforce the viewing of commercials. One just needs to
        be a little clever.

  8. Derik

    Translation: We can’t figure out how to force you to watch ads with HTML5. Also, it makes it harder to keep it off your TV and non-computer devices.

    • HammerOfTruth

      EXACTLY. Content providers are worried that HTML5 will allow users to save content on their devices and play them over and over for free. Egads!!

      • The post is back (see bottom of page for HTML5 heading) but what’s really interesting is the comments from Hulu subscribers who are SCREAMING that the recent “upgrade” to Hulu is unusable.
        What isn’t clear is if the up/downgrade that everyone is complaining about was/still is(?) w/HTML5 or Flash?