"Let Jason Kilar Take a Bow"

Peter Kafka, AllThingsD:

In the meantime, we can take a minute and give Kilar credit for building and maintaining an influential, important and valuable site many people pronounced dead as soon as it was born.
As Kilar himself notes, Hulu’s unofficial launch name was ClownCo, because any sensible person knew that there was no way Big Media companies could form a worthwhile joint venture, and zero chance they’d be able to create a decent video site. That’s the kind of thing that you left to the smart tech guys at places like Myspace, Veoh and Metacafe.
Surprise! Those guys are gone, and Kilar and his team ended up building a really great website, and then kept it up and running for 5 years, while generating real money by the end of his run. Meanwhile, the site’s value doubled, to $2 billion.

Sometime in 2008, after a particularly heavy weekend, I remember one of my housemates emerging from his darkened bedroom — eyes bloodshot and exhausted — with a confusing smile on his face.

"I just watched the first season of 'Arrested Development' non-stop for most of the day," he proudly remarked.

Noting that I was fairly unperturbed by his achievement, he added one simple — and, then, somewhat revolutionary — word to the end of his statement: "Legally."

As a student, Hulu was an unfathomable gift. Having watched as friends repeatedly received DMCA notices for pirating television seasons, Hulu suddenly appeared with the endorsement of the industry whose content it sought to share freely with the world.

Perhaps the service has fallen somewhat slack in light of the rise of Netflix, but, nevertheless, it remains one of the most memorable services I've ever had the pleasure of using.

And, as Kafka highlights, it was, indeed, a pleasure to use. Greeted by a fairly well-designed site and that smooth narratorial voice at the beginning of each episode, Hulu stood well apart from the pack and unquestionably paved the way for digital streaming into the lives of countless people in the United States. And, against the odds, Hulu still looks and behaves wonderfully well today.

Kilar was, without a doubt, given an extremely raw deal by Hulu's stakeholders. He was tasked with developing, launching, and sustaining a product that was otherwise destined for catastrophic failure. And, with this hand, Kilar did not resign himself to the obvious, but instead rose to the occasion and built an industry disrupting service.

Regardless of Hulu's issues — all of which are largely borne out of stakeholder issues — Kilar deserves plenty of praise for what he achieved with the service. Although I rarely use Hulu any more, I certainly feel indebted to Mr. Kilar and his team for all that they've achieved over the past six years.

More than that, I'm excited to see what such a talented and forward-thinking businessman might get up to next.

Hulu Plus Quietly Arrives for Apple TV

Hulu Plus

Arnold Kim:

Apple has quietly launched a Hulu Plus channel on Apple TV this morning. We’ve first received a report from one Apple TV owner who first found the channel to appear this morning and have since been able to confirm it ourselves. We’ve found that users may have to reboot their Apple TV for the channel to appear.

Interesting to note Apple’s tactics with regard to Apple TV, insofar as updates proceed without acknowledgement. Although somewhat abrupt, the news actually feels rather encouraging to me. With Hulu’s arrival, Apple has demonstrated that it has ongoing discussions with content providers, and that it’s actively working toward the betterment of the content selection on the “hobby” device.

Amazon Hiring Creative Executives for Original Content

Following reports of an impending standalone media service from Amazon, GigaOM has stumbled across two job postings on Amazon's corporate careers site searching for creative executives. Ryan Lawler reports:

Add Amazon to the list of online video providers that could soon release some new original programming. The company is looking to hire creative executives to develop and produce original comedies and kids shows for online and traditional distribution.

Original content is set to define the forthcoming industry shift toward streaming media. Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and Amazon are now actively developing original content and, in doing so, are lending their clout toward undercutting the de facto dominance of cable networks.

Keen to rest on their laurels, cable networks have left themselves vulnerable to the innovative foresight of these Internet giants. While cable networks may not fall any time soon, the evident recognition of the importance of original content bodes well for the prospects of Amazon and the like. 

Streaming vast libraries of digital content is all well and good, but offering something tangibly different is going to be of the utmost importance over the course of the next few years. Building this upon their robust digital distribution networks, fortune is entirely in their favor, unlike the bloated and ineffective Big Media companies we are all so pleasantly accustomed to.

Considering Amazon's extensive investments over the past quarter, it's only a matter of time before we begin to see the fruits of their labor and, if these job postings are any indication, it's certainly set to be an interesting competition between Amazon and Netflix.

Verizon and Redbox Launching Video Service

Andrew Dowell and Martin Peers for The Wall Street Journal:

Telecommunications company Verizon Communications Inc. and Redbox video-kiosk owner Coinstar Inc. said Monday they will launch an online service in the second half of the year that features streaming videos and downloads.

Although details regarding content providers are notably absent, the collaborative project certainly boasts some uniquely attractive traits. Given the physical network of Redbox machines, Verizon's exisiting media allegiances and digital network via its cellular and FiOS services, and the apparent dedication to building a standalone service, Verizon and Coinstar's plans paint a fairly cosmetically formidable picture.

Having said that, aside from a robust distribution network, Verizon and Coinstar have failed to indicate any semblance of interest in original content. Although specific content deals have not been detailed, the joint press release fails to even hint at original content - an area that is likely to become of pivotal importance in the streaming arena.

Netflix now touts over 24 million users and is actively pursuing original content deals, most notably with its impending resurrection of the popular television show, 'Arrested Development.' With Yahoo! and Hulu both following suit, it is clear that merely offering a library of other people's content will not suffice for market success.

Netflix and Hulu have both posted impressive earnings, and have repeatedly highlighted their dedication to modernization. Focusing upon streaming rather than physical distribution, although met with initial apprehension, has proved an important business model for Netflix, and Hulu's entire reliance on digital distribution is clearly paying off. Thus, it seems odd that Verizon has struck a deal with Coinstar and its Redbox machines when the communications giant evidently could've built a streaming service of its own with few hurdles to clear. 

With no content-specific details - particularly with a view to original projects - it is entirely premature to view this as a viable Netflix competitor. Vague promises of apps, an apparent desire for physical discs, and unclear content deals all provide for a thoroughly flimsy premise, and I'm accordingly unconvinced. Brand name clout aside, without concrete details and industry-upsetting deals to back it up, it will take quite a lot more for me to even mention this deal as some sort of threat to Netflix or Hulu.

The joint press release can be viewed here.

Hulu Creating New Original Content

According to The Wall Street Journal, Hulu is actively developing two new shows for broadcast on its streaming platform.

Considering Netflix's increasing investment in original programming, it's encouraging to see Hulu recognizing the growing trends in the market. 

Interestingly, Hulu is owned by Walt Disney Co. and News Corp (amongst others) -- two companies notorious for their problems with streaming content. Although the likelihood of Hulu's sale has been in doubt, adopting such a progressive strategy is indicative of a potentially resurfacing disagreement between Hulu and its owners, and lends credibility to rumors of Hulu being put back on the market in 2012.

Following steep revenue gains and subscriber uptake, Hulu is reiterating its relevance in an increasingly competitive market. The media industry is irrefutably changing, and Hulu's recognition and active address of this environment gives me heaps of confidence for the platform's competitive future.