How To Watch Great Online Content…For Free!

Did He say “Free”?

Online media content and access to it is all the rage these days. Nevermind music, because consumers are looking for bigger fish. Consumers want to download or stream and watch their favorite TV shows and even movies. For those on the go this desire has grown exponentially. Apple and others have scrambled for the past two and half years to settle content contracts with movie and television studios resulting in some great partnerships as well as some nasty breakups.

In the wake of NBC’s departure from iTunes came a new kind of service from the combined forces of NBC and News Corp.: Hulu. Launched March 12, 2008, Hulu is an ad-supported free content service which allows users to watch hundreds of television shows and movies on-demand on their PC or Mac. Much in the same way that some networks (e.g. NBC, CBS) are offering free video-on-demand (VOD) on their websites, Hulu streams content to your computer that you can watch as many times as you want and as long as you want.

Who is this service targeted at?


Hulu is not meant to be a replacement for iTunes or similar services. You can not purchase to own content from Hulu. And since content is streamed and not downloaded, it can not be synced to an iPod or similar portable media device. The content is streamed to the user’s computer so it can be viewed on a laptop or desktop computer (via the monitor). It can be viewed on a television if the user has means for hooking his computer to his television thus using the TV as a monitor. With that understanding, Hulu would be most useful to users who travel with a laptop and do not mind watching streaming content on a laptop or those who do not mind watching content on their desktop computer monitors. Keep in mind that a high-speed internet connection is required to stream the content from Hulu.

How is it free?

Content consumers do not pay for Hulu, but instead ads provide the needed income. However Hulu has implemented ads in a very noninvasive way. For movies you are giving to choices at the start of the film: 1) you may choose to watch the trailer of upcoming film after which your movie will start and will be free of commercials or 2) you may choose to skip the trailer and start your movie immediately but with regular commercial interruptions. For TV shows you are not given the same choice but regular commercials will be shown as they would on regular broadcast television. There is one difference in both cases of commercial interruptions. The commercial breaks are much shorter than those on normal broadcast television. Usually the commercial breaks are limited to a minute or less.

How do I start using Hulu?

To get started with Hulu, simply head over to http://www.hulu.com and set up a free account. This will require you to enter a username and password, your name, and address. Once you submit this information then you will be taken to your new profile page. On the profile page you can enter more specific information about yourself so that others in the Hulu community can read your profile and even see the content that you have been watching. After you have saved and entered the information you want to show up on your profile you can next click on the Privacy & Settings section and dictate which information you want to be public and what you want to be private. Some things are private by default (such as your email address) but you can choose to make them public if you would like.

Now for the fun stuff: your queue and your subscriptions. In the spirit of Netflix, you can queue certain content to be watched later. Start by searching for content that you would like to view. At the top of very page on Hulu are two links for TV and for Movies. Click one of these and you are taken to a new page and given some options to browse content by genre, popularity, or you can view everything alphabetically. And finally there is a such bar where you can search for specific titles. Once you pull up a show or movie you will see a (+) symbol beside the thumbnail with the word “queue”. Click this and the video will go into your queue for later viewing. You can also click any thumbnail and begin watching it immediately.

If you are interested in a TV show and you want to be sure to catch future added episodes, then you can subscribe to it. Once you pull up the show you want to subscribe to click the “Subscribe” button. Now newly added episodes for that show will be automatically dropped into your queue.

The possible shortcomings of this model are yet to be seen, but so far it has a lot of promise. Of course a user’s viewing experience with Hulu will be directly correlated to the speed of his internet connection. Also be sure to quit any other applications before viewing content on Hulu otherwise the movie or show you are watching will tend to pause and restart alot. However after you quit any other applications (especially mail clients or others that ping the web) you should have a hassle-free, smooth, amazingly high-quality viewing experience. I would encourage anyone who enjoys watching VOD to check out Hulu.

Josh H.


2 Responses to “How To Watch Great Online Content…For Free!”

  1. March 25, 2008 at 8:17 am

    I found and started using Hulu last week. I have been watching episodes of “NewsRadio” and a couple of other shows.

    It’s great for the times when i’m at the office late (bandwidth consumption is low) and I can have something distracting while I wait on servers to reboot.

  2. March 31, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    Thanks for the tip Josh!

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