The focus of online video has split a great deal in the past couple years. What was once a random assortment of home movies and pirated content has now diverted into several niche markets. Different content for different tastes, some still up in pirated forms, but many now being presented legitimately for the average user to view without fear of legal retribution. Premium content has exploded lately with studios finally acknowledging this need to start changing the business formula and respond to the average Internet user’s demands. Instead of continuing to punish the customer by refusing their needs, studio heads learned how bring advertising to online videos, still turn a profit, and thus have their shows online.
Almost all major television stations now offer all Internet users free access to at least some of their primetime content. Missed tonight’s Grey’s Anatomy? Hop on over to http://abc.com and click to find their full episodes. Want to watch Barney’s antics again from tonight’s How I Met Your Mother? http://nbc.com has it up and ready to watch over and over. How about watching every episode of The Daily Show. http://thedailyshow.com lets you search through their archives and watch it all. But who wants to jump around so much? Here’s where the next generation of online premium content is coming to life.
There are two places I’ve found online that offer more viewing and primetime television options then anywhere else. The first is Joost. It allows a user to sign up and download a free on-demand service that offers a wide array of tv content. When it comes to premium content, users can find contributions coming from some big names like Comedy Central, Adult Swim, MTV, WB, and CNN. In addition to premium content, the site also offers many less known shows, music videos, and even a few full-length movies. Most advertisements come in out of the way, and the software aspect isn’t that big of a hassle, although getting around and finding what you want does take some getting used to. In addition, I find that often, when it comes to seeing the content I want, Joost listings are just too sparse.
So I come to the last site, and my hands down favorite, Hulu . Hulu is the best one stop shop for free premium content the web has to offer. Hulu has succeeded in doing what no one else has been able to do; bring together a huge assortment of content providers (currently over 50) and get them to host tons of full episodes and even full mainstream movies from their site. Hulu is what I’ve always imagined when I thought of the Internet television future. With content coming from such big names as NBC, FOX, MGM, and Sony Pictures Television, you are getting quality programming. When it comes to the web, content is king, and any place that can offer me all three seasons of Arrested Development free of charge is a place I need to be. Add in a very simple interface, a great flash player, and very short commercial breaks, and it doesn’t get much sweeter.
Until the day comes when all studios band together under one roof and show everything legal, free and on demand through one interface, it’s not going to be possible to satisfy all your television cravings easily. But with the steps being taken today, it’s not impossible to imagine it happening soon. Joost and Hulu show the promise of a new age of premium content on the web. Has anyone else found any other sites helping to break new ground in this area?