Hulu

AMIDST THE BIT TORRENTS OF digital plankton prognosticating the failure of the newly launched News Corp./NBC joint venture Hulu before the online video platform is even readily available, one can’t help but wonder if there isn’t something more significant here that we as an industry need to take note of: Old-media defenders can actually become new-media players once they wake up to the reality that liberating their content can actually, well — liberate them.

To begin with, the platform is simple and refined. From a digital branding perspective, it’s a little on the sparse side, but the GUI (graphical user interface) is at once elegant, clean and open.

Lots of free content abounds – even new prime-time episodes. But what’s perhaps most impressive is the “create, customize, share” tools that will enable consumers to edit custom clips from hit shows and instantly forward them to a friend. Add some Brew applications to the platform and imagine, we’ll be forwarding clips to phones.

Just think of the opportunities. You edit your favorite clip of the best of “Bionic Woman” or “Last Comic Standing,” and click: ready-made responses to the most offensive emails in your i-box. Not to mention the myriad of Idol Worshipers that will be set free if Freemantle finds Hulu worthy of Sir Simon and his Band of Merry Men.

From an agency creative perspective, one can’t help thinking about the unique opportunities to draft off of these edited viral clips — but not with your standard pre-rolls. If you stop to think about the opportunities to dynamically link program clips with product features or benefits, or brand attributes with character attributes – the contextual possibilities begin to seem endless. The question in my mind is, will NBC/Universal be a bit more patient than News Corp. was after its MySpace purchase, instantly overloading the platform with ad units and driving viewers away within months?

I hope Hulu succeeds. Not because Big Media needs a win. But because it takes courage to look at the marketplace with fresh eyes and not just accept the consumer requisites that go with today’s free on-demand territory, but add value to those diminishing margin requisites in a manner that moves the whole user experience forward. Legally.

The hefty margins that ended up marginalizing the record business because they were too late to liberate their own content by their own free will may not replicate themselves in the television business just yet. Pure-play online platforms might have the market cap for now, but there is something to be said for having multiple distribution platforms in place to bundle together that leaves Big Media strategic partnerships like this one in a place to succeed.

As for the advertisers, time will soon tell if platforms like Hulu actually become the kind of quality environment that advertisers prefer to find themselves in – rather than having to dumb down their brand equity to feel at home in places like Google and YouTube.

From this creative’s perspective, Hulu is quite simply off to a very clean start.

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