Why Hulu Is The Future?

I used a TiVo for seven years prior to last year when the hard drive on my Pioneer DVR-810HS finally gave out. I never paid for TiVo service with that machine because it came packaged with TiVo Basic – which basically ran a barebones version of DVR software that functioned similar to a VCR.

So in 2010 when I was back in the market for a DVR, instead of making the plunge into a monthly TiVo payment I took a gamble with EyeTV. $1000 dollars later I was owner of a brand new Mac Mini and EyeTV software and I haven’t looked back since.

I still pay for DirecTV. The EyeTV functions as my DVR – letting me schedule recordings, watch live and recorded videos remotely on an iOS device.

And since I watch TV through a Mac, I also take advantage of Netflix, Hulu and just about everything else the internet has to offer.

It’s the Hulu aspect that brings me here today. For a while there, the service had to pull episodes of The Daily Show and Colbert Report due to an ongoing battle with Viacom. So for the last 100 years or so, I’ve watched episodes of those two shows on my DVR – usually catching the 10am airings the next day so whatever I happened to be watching at 11pm wasn’t interrupted.

But now that the shows are back on Hulu, I’ve made the switch full time. No longer do I waste hard drive space on my Mac Mini with episodes of TDS and CR. I just catch up with them on demand, on Hulu.

As an aside, I tried this tactic during the period the shows were only available online at comedycentral.com and it just didn’t work out. Their video player was too buggy and I’d often get a pre-roll followed by nothing or other times get a pre-roll following by two almost simultaneous versions of the same episode playing in the browser. The experience has to be flawless and Hulu does a great job.

So, finally to the point, I made the switch to watch TDS and CR on Hulu and now find myself enjoying it for a totally unrelated and unexpected reason.

In the past, on TiVo, my brain was wired to expect and anticipate commercial breaks. The remote was never too far away and I took pride in coming out of fast forward with the same precision needed to come out of a hyperspace warp.

But now, while watching on Hulu, my conditioned brain still reacts the same way but is quickly met with a relief that I don’t have to put down that bag of Doritos and clean the orange dust off my fingers.

I’ll now gladly sit through the 30 seconds of commercials just so I don’t have to stop what I’m doing and pick up the remote.

And that, not too simply, is why Hulu – and on demand video done right – has a better future than DVR… or for that matter and television as we once knew it.

UPDATE – 20110713: The whole NetFlix price increase thing really throws the title of this post for a loop. Scope must reach beyond Hulu and similar companies and just say ‘on demand streaming’ in general. Original content owners really do hold the cards here (ie, HBOGO). Either way, it’s not enough to just have good content… you also have to have the flawless online experience to go with it. Just look at the Comedy Central example above. It’s make or break.

UPDATE 2 – 20110726: Interesting NYTimes story today titled: Hulu, Billed as Tomorrow’s TV, Looks Boxed In