Posted to Ben Finklea's blog on February 24th, 2009

Hulu Who?!

Web 2.0 brought us: consumer generated content, social networking sites, and a whole new way of communicating with such stand-outs as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace. Recently, NBC Universal and News Corp. created, a video portal with the exclusive rights to distribute NBC and Fox shows outside of their websites. This is a whole new way to watch television... online. You can catch all those episodes of Family Guy and SNL that you’ve been missing at any time. has become the fourth-biggest online video distributor by unique visitors as of January 2009, according to the latest from Nielsen VideoCensus. In total streams Hulu was third, with 232 million, behind YouTube (5.8 million) and Yahoo (277 million).

The most intriguing part of Hulu’s neophyte success is its exclusive deal with NBC-News Corp. lasts only two years. Hulu knows all too well that its content suppliers that helped build and establish its brand may be going away soon. No one officially knows when the deal expires, but ballpark gestimates put it likely within a year from this March.

You could call it a great head start for Hulu, who had one of my more enjoyable commercials from the Super Bowl featuring a certain Baldwin turning into an alien (that surely explains why his ties are always perfect). Competition is headed Hulu’s way, with Yahoo TV becoming the fastest-growing video site in January, as well as being acquired recently by CBS. Since it’s relaunch last month, has blown up. It’s a bigger site than Hulu in terms of unique visitors, with 5.9 million compared to Hulu’s 4.5 million, according to Nielsen. In a more important metric of unique views, however, isn’t competitive at No. 33 with a quarter million in January. Hulu had 7.2 million unique views. Hulu may lose its exclusive rights to their current content, but if they decide to distribute their content on a wider scale, they need to differentiate on quality, including features such as content search, chat, and community functions.

2009 is going to be a very competitive year for online video portals gaining distribution and exclusive rights to network content. Hulu could go the way of Friendster, or it could extend its contract and surge ahead and establish itself as the category leader in a young category. YouTube may be winning the race, but it lacks in significant professional content. Hulu has the opportunity to differentiate themselves with network-quality content driven by highly functional search and social capabilities. Unless NBC Universal and News Corp. have another video portal outside their web site to utilize for the evolution of online network content, they may be making a mistake not extending their rights with Hulu has developed a strong brand and it would be a shame to see it be lost in the insignificant cob webs of the past.

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