The TV industry, like the advertising industry, is a hard business that has dealt with a lot of change – laser disks. Video rental. Cable. DVDs. Satellite. And it has survived all of them.
So when the internet came along it didn’t take a genius to figure out that it too posed a potential threat to the TV industry.
Whenever a new medium comes along there is a tendency to focus on what makes it different. And the internet was no exception. The internet came to equal “interactive”, since that was its most obvious point of differentiation. And enormous effort went into exploiting this aspect of it initially.
But people are people. And people love stories. Let me rephrase that. People love being told stories. In much the same way that though everyone can tell a joke, but we’d all much rather listen to Chris Rock than the guy from accounting. And video is still the most satisfactory way to tell a story. So video quickly became the currency of the internet. And then YouTube came along. And functioned as a clearing house for all this new video content. But even YouTube has its weaknesses. Principal among those being the lack of professionally produced video.
Because, as anyone who’s ever produced actually funny video content on a consistent basis knows: it’s hard. Every time. Creating great video is a lot like cooking a great meal. In theory we can all do it, but in reality only a comparative handful can do it reliably.
So the surprise success of Hulu perhaps lies in how long it took to get it off the ground. Getting cut-throat competitors to play along would never be easy. And earlier attempts at TV-on-the-internet like Joost failed for technical reasons(download software? NO!) and the fact that the studios and networks didn’t want to let others monetize content that cost them hundreds of millions of dollars to produce. Content may want to be free. But content’s lawyers and accountants clearly feel strongly to the contrary. It will be interesting to see how Hulu evolves.