Hulu Telling Sites To Stop Embedding So Much

from the this-is-not-how-the-internet-works dept

Once again, we're left wondering how Hulu can survive, given that its ownership has too much interest in restricting what its customers want to do. Following braindead efforts to block specialized browsers, even though they access Hulu content just like regular browsers, combined with blocking anonymous proxies, even those used for perfectly legitimate reasons, Hulu is apparently now cracking down on sites that embed a lot of its videos -- yes, despite having embed functionality specifically allowed.

You may recall that one of the key reasons why YouTube became so popular in the first place was a little javascript hack that made it incredibly easy to embed the video directly into any other website (while still hosting the content on YouTube). Suddenly, rather than having to link to the video, it was easy to have video on any other website. Hulu of course recognized the value of that and included embed code functionality as well, but quickly found itself unsure how to deal with the fact that people actually used it. Back when Hulu was still in private beta, requiring invites to access the sites, some other sites quickly decided to just embed all the videos on their own sites, pulling in the traffic that Hulu could have generated for itself. Many sites apparently are still embedding lots of Hulu shows, and Hulu has simply decided to tell those sites to stop. As NewTeeVee notes in the link above, nothing good will come from this policy. It comes across as being rather against how the web works and how people expect the web to work. In the end it just appears like yet another "but we can stop people from doing what they want to do" move that all too often comes from those in legacy industries.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 6:58am

    Here's an interesting quote from the article:

    Hulu demanded that a newly launched video discovery startup called Rippol stop embedding all its shows.

    I can sort of understand where Hulu is going here. Embedding is suppose to be something used by, say, a blogger who points to something interesting or someone putting a video up on facebook or whatever. Rippol looks like a company attempting to use ALL of the videos from Hulu to run their own business.

    Again, I am surprised Mike that you can't see the difference.

     

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      Robert Ring (profile), Nov 24th, 2009 @ 7:09am

      Re:

      I don't see why this matters at all. When you embed Hulu videos, the commercials still play just as they would directly from Hulu's website. If someone thinks they can take those videos -- which Hulu will still making money from, regardless of the website they appear on -- and present them on a more user-friendly interface, that will do nothing but give Hulu more viewers and, thus, more money. If this website's interface is less user-friendly, then people will simple turn to Hulu.com, or some other website, instead.

      So, I don't see at all what the problem with embedding these videos (to any degree) is.

       

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        Zaphod (profile), Nov 24th, 2009 @ 7:21am

        Re: Re:

        What they (hulu) ought to be doing is scanning the pages where they are embedded, and then adjusting their ads on a play-by-play basis to deliver relevant content...

        Wait... Google/YouTube may not like that idea.

        Nevermind.

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 7:29am

        Re: Re:

        Let's see... imagine a page with 1000 embedded videos, and every time someone hits that page, hulu is forced to display their frame and handle 1000+ connection requests for items. No, they don't download the full video, but certainly they are getting the startup frame etc.

        It also doesn't allow Hulu to control the user experience. They can't guide them to preferred videos, or have them become part of the community, or anything else along those lines. Remember the old CwF? Take away the site and just display the videos, and that connection part is gone.

        Rippol is trying to build a business model that is based on ripping other sites off, attempting to insert their CwF into the process, while letting the other sites pay the bandwidth.

        Sign up for Rippol, go have a look, and you will understand how this can be very disruptive for companies.

         

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          Robert Ring (profile), Nov 24th, 2009 @ 7:36am

          Re: Re: Re:

          I see what you're saying, and I don't really feel like signing up for Rippol to check it out, but if they're displaying 1000 videos per page, that doesn't sound like any sort of good user experience to me.

           

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          Michael, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 7:39am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Companies that are simply a rip-off of another business (like you describe, I have not looked at the service) are short-lived. If they cannot add value in some way, users are likely to go to the source or find a better "rip-off" that adds some kind of value.

          Content companies that are afraid of these types of "competitors" seem to think that their idea (which may be great) is so good that it cannot evolve. If they continue to innovate, they will overtake companies that simply re-display content in short order.

           

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          Cynyr (profile), Nov 24th, 2009 @ 7:39am

          Re: Re: Re:

          So then disable the embed links, Problem solved. You could also hash the video name and the user name together in the embed link. Then require a login to get an embed link. Find a site that you feel is misusing the link, just display a link back to hulu in place of the video. ohh well, if I could play it on my old school CRT (RF only) TV easily from my couch i'd be much more inclined to use it.

           

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          John Doe, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 7:40am

          Re: Re: Re:

          It also doesn't allow Hulu to control the user experience. They can't guide them to preferred videos, or have them become part of the community, or anything else along those lines. Remember the old CwF? Take away the site and just display the videos, and that connection part is gone.

          Control? Really? I don't know about you, but I don't want my experience controlled. If Hulu provides the better experience, they will get used. If they don't, they won't. You have also forgotten the other half of the equation, RtB. If someone else is giving Hulu's customers CwF and/or Rtb, then Hulu needs to step up their game. They have the content, now they need to work on the rest of the equation.

           

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            Michael, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 7:47am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I agree.

            I think the Hulu business is really close to a good internet business model. They have content partners that are making it a huge problem for them (and could be the source of these issues), but they have combined the content and the ads in a way that someone else embedding it gets both.

            Now, a less-intrusive ad model might be nicer, but with the content and the ads being embedded, their business model should be to get as many people to embed their shows as possible. It's like they have billboards that people WANT to stand in their front yards. Sure, you get the guy that decides to stick 1000 billboards on his lawn and charge people to see them, but if your ad is still on the billboard, allowing him to give you more traffic sounds like a good idea.

             

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          ConceptJunkie (profile), Nov 24th, 2009 @ 11:12am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Well, if that's really the case then Hulu didn't think this thing through very much. I don't have much sympathy if they expose the functionality to the world and then complain when people "abuse" it. Welcome to the world, Hulu.

          In general, I like Hulu a lot and use their service almost every day. I can't imagine Hulu will survive for long, however. They provide too much service with too little hassle. I'll enjoy it while I can and find something else when it's gone.

           

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      Michael, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 7:35am

      Re:

      I'm sure Mike can see a difference. However, the problem isn't that there is not difference. The problem is that Hulu built (is building) a business model on top of a technology that allows and even promotes this behavior and then telling people not to do it.

      It's just bad business to have some technology that people like (they must or would not be using it) and tell them that since you cannot figure out a good way to make it profitable, they simply need to use it in exactly the way the intended.

      They should be looking at this from the other direction and trying to figure out how they can take advantage of the way the technology is being used. They are still providing the content. It is still streaming from their site. Another company coming along and using that content is one of two things: 1. a company that cannot come up with anything of their own that is simply copying your business or 2. a company that looked at your business and figured out a way to add additional value.

      The first is probably going to have problems since they are not innovators. If Hulu continues to innovate, they should be able to stay ahead of this type of company easily and eventually those companies will be gone.

      The second is an opportunity for Hulu to either get their act together and provide more competitive services, or simply another channel through which they need to devise a business model in which they continue to make money. Frankly, they have this business model since the commercials are embedded in the content the other companies are using. If someone can add a service that generates more viewers, they should be thrilled.

       

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        Se7en, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 8:47am

        Re: Re:

        I agree.
        The problem is that Hulu's owners come across as a bit dimwitted about what features they offer, and what they expect people to do with them once they've released the features....waitaminute..,that's probably exactly the problem.

         

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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Nov 24th, 2009 @ 7:45am

    Hmmph.

    Whinging on about such a problem seems rather ineffective.

    The Hulu fellows have root physical access--why don't they just change how the server responds when some goofy a$*hole's page calls for a "large number" of videos' embed frames simultaneously?

    Seriously, not a difficult problem. Solved by a little server side code and a twitter which says "You can now only embed one video per IP address per minute." (unless you're a paying member of our "bandwidth club.")

     

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      Michael, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 7:52am

      Re: Hmmph.

      Sure they can do that, but it again seems counter-intuitive to break they way technology works against the wishes of your audience.

      They are reducing the value of their own content. Most people want to increase the value.

       

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        :Lobo Santo (profile), Nov 24th, 2009 @ 7:59am

        Re: Re: Hmmph.

        Freemium business model -- you get this cool fully working completely functional stuff for free; if you want more you'll need to pay for it.

        If their free service is being abused to the detriment of the company, they need to do something about it. I was simply pitching one possible workaround which leaves full functionality (so far as most users are concerned) but seriously messes with those who want to base a 'business model' off of abusing their free service.

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 8:12am

        Re: Re: Hmmph.

        The audiences isn't always right, especially when it's someone else's audience.

        Hulu needs to protect their (almost workable) business model from attacks.

         

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          Michael, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 9:30am

          Re: Re: Re: Hmmph.

          If your business model is under attack from the very thing that makes it valuable (in this case, the audience), it makes much more sense to change the business model than attack the thing that makes it valuable.

          Yes, they are attempting some site that is using their content in and unexpected way from doing so to protect their business. This can make perfect sense until their attack on the site takes away functionality that is useful to their audience. I am not saying your play would not work, I am saying that it is very risky because it may send a portion of the audience elsewhere.

          And again, it seems like they have content with ads built in that others are sharing. If their business model also depends on driving traffic through their website to view other ads, it seems like their time would be better spent adjusting their revenue stream to get all of their necessary revenue into the content. If they do this, they suddenly make what this and other companies do a BENEFIT to their business rather than some kind of a threat. Adjusting your business model to work with the market makes a lot more sense than trying to adjust the market to meet your business model.

           

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    MAC, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 7:57am

    They don't want to shell out the money to support it...

     

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    Hephaestus (profile), Nov 24th, 2009 @ 8:05am

    Time for me to be a little Trollish ....

    Hulu is the first thing the Studios and networks have done that even approachs being intelligent. Instead of burying their heads in the sand like the record labels did, they are trying something new and attempting to adapt. The thing they are going to have to come to terms with is real dollars to digital dimes problem. The reduction in profitability will either cause them to fail or become more efficient.

     

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    Jon B. (profile), Nov 24th, 2009 @ 8:24am

    Comparison to YouTube

    What YouTube has done has made it popular, but it hasn't made it profitable. There's no direct money to be made in embedded videos. Maybe it can be monetized well but even YouTube isn't doing that well yet, so I don't think the comparison is fair.

    Now, YouTube is beginning to compete with Hulu and YouTube may prove more profitable for all the reasons you mention - being more open, not serving too many conflicting interests, but it's still too early to say.

    Criticizing Hulu's stupid policies is fair, but kudos to Hulu for at least trying something different instead of just copying YouTube, because I don't think that's the path to success either.

     

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Nov 24th, 2009 @ 10:03am

      Re: Comparison to YouTube

      What YouTube has done has made it popular, but it hasn't made it profitable. There's no direct money to be made in embedded videos. Maybe it can be monetized well but even YouTube isn't doing that well yet, so I don't think the comparison is fair.

      Why do you say that? Google has made strong indications that it is profitable.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 11:59am

        Re: Re: Comparison to YouTube

        Google has made "indications" but have never actually come out and said it. If Youtube was actually truly profitable, they would be crowing about it like crazy, trying to show that their insane overpayment for the site was worth it.

        Google has volume and scale of operations which allows them to leverage other businesses they own to provide YouTube with bandwidth at costs nobody else can touch, massive data centers, and other major expenditures that may or may not be part of the bottom line of YouTube. Since they aren't specifically saying "YouTube Made $XXX million last year" you can be sure that any profit is on a very, very, very technical basis and not at all on an overall bottom line operations standpoint.

         

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          Mike Masnick (profile), Nov 24th, 2009 @ 11:24pm

          Re: Re: Re: Comparison to YouTube

          Google has made "indications" but have never actually come out and said it. If Youtube was actually truly profitable, they would be crowing about it like crazy, trying to show that their insane overpayment for the site was worth it.


          Hmm. Google tends to hold such things close to the chest -- especially on things that are massively successful, so I'm not sure why they would change just for that. Gmail has made a ridiculous amount of money for Google, and yet they do not crow about it or break that out separately.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Nov 25th, 2009 @ 2:44pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Comparison to YouTube

            Gmail didn't cost them anything.

             

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              Anonymous Coward, Nov 25th, 2009 @ 10:31pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Comparison to YouTube

              Except for thousands upon thousands of man hours, bandwidth costs, storage server costs...

              Then again, this IS Google we're talking about. It's entirely likely that the entire software and integration was gifted to them by a Fairy Godmother.

               

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      SomeGuy (profile), Nov 24th, 2009 @ 10:18am

      Re: Comparison to YouTube

      There's no direct money to be made in embedded videos.

      As I recall, commercials are still present in embedded Hulu shows, and those streams are still counted because the embedding is still hosted by Hulu. TV lived for decades on commercials, why is it suddenly different because people use their computers for the same purpose?

       

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    Shawn (profile), Nov 24th, 2009 @ 8:36am

    I would think Hulu could deal with the fictional page with 1000 embeds by only serving one or "X" number of videos at a time to a client. I would be surprised if they were not already doing that. I don't think this is a move about controlling their bandwidth it is Hulu what hey perceive is best for their brand.

     

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    MarksAngel (profile), Nov 24th, 2009 @ 8:40am

    From what I've seen all this rippol does is provide a way to post to twitter, facebook and other social networking sites about what your watching, if Hulu was wise they would already have this functionality added to their website making this other services redundant.

     

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    Michial Thompson, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 8:57am

    Not one mention of the costs to Hulu

    WOW, mikee and the rest of the sheeples on here seem to have left out one small detail. Hulu pays millions for the bandwidth that is consumed by these videos being streamed.

    The other company only spends a small fraction of that on bandwidth and leaches off of Hulu. Hulu may embed advertising in the videos, but they also embed the advertising in their HTML as well.

    They offer the embedded video options to their END USERS as a courtesy, there is no reason on earth for them to support some other companies business model by subsidizing their bandwidth requirements.

    Every time mikee m posts his dribble criticizing Internet companies for not giving their products away for free just because it's "virtual goods" he overlooks the premium companies pay for the bandwidth to send these virtual goods over the Internet.

    And I hate to break everyone's hearts, but the bandwidth I pay for at my data centers far exceeds the cost of my broadband at home...

     

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      The Infamous Joe (profile), Nov 24th, 2009 @ 9:34am

      Re: Not one mention of the costs to Hulu

      They offer the embedded video options to their END USERS as a courtesy

      ..and who are these mysterious "end users"? Someone who is allowed to embed but doesn't? Someone without a web page? It seems to me that if they don't want people embedding videos, they shouldn't allow it. If they allow it, they shouldn't complain because someone does.

      there is no reason on earth for them to support some other companies business model

      Yes, there is. Every pair of eyes that watches those videos also watches the ads. That's how they make money at Hulu. If someone can get 10,000 more people to watch the videos because they allow those users to tweet what they are watching, that's 10,000 more people watching ads. It's a win-win. No one is losing money here. If Hulu was smart, they'd quickly integrate this quite obvious (yet somehow left out??) feature into their page, and presto, there's no reason to visit the other site anymore.

       

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      Michael, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 9:42am

      Re: Not one mention of the costs to Hulu

      Yes, they pay for the bandwidth, but isn't their business model based on getting people to watch this content?

      Your complaint is that Hulu also needs to make money off of the ads they have on their website and that the ad revenue from people watching the stream (which they can still track when it is embedded) is not enough. Why not focus on changing that?

      Yes, it sucks that someone took their great content and stuck it on a web page that allows you to (apparently) post to FaceBook about it easily. However, if someone doing that has added enough value to your content to draw away your revenue, you can do one of three things:
      1. Add that functionality yourself - apparently, your customers want it.
      2. Change your ad revenue streams so the revenue from the HTML on your own site is irrelevant. This is also an opportunity for you to reduce costs - make your website simple and rely on others to add value as this other company has done.
      3. Complain about the technology and/or break it so someone cannot do this to you. Unfortunately, this is also likely to reduce the value of your content because people want the feature you do not provide.

      Allowing others to add value and serve as a deployment network for your product is something that many companies have embraced. Letting someone make a GPS module for your PDA helps you SELL MORE PDA's. This is particularly good news if you suck at making GPS modules. If Hulu cannot make a better web page for their own ads, they should be thrilled to have a better designer give more people a reason to see their ads.

       

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    Jesse, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 10:00am

    Legitimacy has nothing to do with it.

    "even those used for perfectly legitimate reasons"

    Mike, why is it illegitimate to use a proxy to make it seem as though you are connecting from a different place? What law is this breaking?

    I think it is illegitimate to put something on the internet and expect that only people from certain countries should be able to access it. It is the World Wide Web, not a private American network.

     

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      Hephaestus (profile), Nov 24th, 2009 @ 10:27am

      Re: Legitimacy has nothing to do with it.

      Its all about windows for the studios, they are seeing the windows erode, eventually there will only be one or two. Windows are the way studios make money. First run with ads on TV, second foreign broadcasts, third rebroadcasting on another channel, fourth DVD sales, etc. The proxy ban is an attempt to keep those windows open. Foreign broadcasts typically occur months after the initial broadcast in the US and not in all markets at the same time.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 12:32pm

      Re: Legitimacy has nothing to do with it.

      I think it is illegitimate to put something on the internet and expect that only people from certain countries should be able to access it. It is the World Wide Web, not a private American network.

      This is a moment when you need to learn a very basic concept: you don't have a right to anything you want without restriction.

      They didn't "put it on the internet", they make it available via the internet. They are a private company who has the right to refuse service to anyone.

      Proxies, VPNs, and other things are all classes of customers that they refuse service to. They are constractually limited to showing the videos only in the US, and that is what they are doing.

      You need to grow up and realize that the internet isn't some sort of unlimited free source for everything you want.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 1:58pm

        Re: Re: Legitimacy has nothing to do with it.

        Not yet. Give it time. Good luck in the future.

         

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        Jesse, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 3:00pm

        Re: Re: Legitimacy has nothing to do with it.

        Telling me to grow up is inflammatory and does not contribute to the discussion; in fact, all it does is draw attention to your inability to carry on an intelligent conversation without being insulting. You can respond without being rude, and I think the point you are trying to make is valid.

        What you are missing is that I'm not claiming some sort of entitlement to services. I'm saying if you don't want the whole world to have access to a service, then don't publish it to the world wide web. More importantly, I'm saying it isn't illegitimate to try to route around these blocks with proxies, no matter the position of Big Content.

         

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        Jesse, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 3:11pm

        Re: Re: Legitimacy has nothing to do with it.

        BTW there are limitations to the types of discrimination companies can make in delivering services. Though it may not apply in this circumstance, a company generally cannot refuse service based on, say, colour.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 6:31pm

          Re: Re: Re: Legitimacy has nothing to do with it.

          a company generally cannot refuse service based on, say, colour.

          ... and you get upset when I tell you to grow up? I don't think this is a discussion about racism. The internet is colorblind.

          The rest is, well, meaningless.

           

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            Jesse, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 6:52pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Legitimacy has nothing to do with it.

            And you again fail to answer my points, but instead choose to make inflammatory remarks. Why should I be upset? I'm not the one unable to engage in meaningful dialogue.

            I never said this discussion was about racism. I'm not going to respond to you anymore because you're only interested in..I have no idea what you are interested. Nor do I care.

             

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    AnonCow, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 11:30am

    Hulu is Comcast without FCC oversight. Incompetent, uncreative, anti-technology, and generally despising its own customers.

    If it was up to Hulu, they would come to your house, kick you in the groin, and just take your wallet...

     

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    Andrew F (profile), Nov 24th, 2009 @ 2:37pm

    Actually this could save Hulu a penny

    If most / all of the ads are embedded in the videos, then Hulu gets to keep its ad revenue and saves a tiny amount on not having to serve the web page (although they still have to pay for serving the content).

     

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    Robert A. Rosenberg (profile), Nov 24th, 2009 @ 8:46pm

    TVGUIDE.COM Embeds

    TVGUIDE.COM does this for lots of shows. Is HULU going after them?

     

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    Gene Cavanaugh, Nov 25th, 2009 @ 9:07am

    Embedding Hulu

    Horrors! I totally agree with you!

     

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