Is Hulu 'The Greatest Destruction of Media Value In Our Lifetime'?
from the that's-one-way-to-look-at-it dept
Hulu, the online video site that has content from most of the major networks, has largely been an early success. While it’s thrown up some barriers to users, it’s done a decent job of putting attractive content in an easily accessible format, and users have flocked to it. Still, we’ve wondered if the site will be able to survive in the long run because of the demands of its content providers, which seem to be behind its user-unfriendly moves. To get a glimpse of the thinking that drives these actions, check out a piece over on Paidcontent called Memo To Networks Re Hulu: You’re Making A Big Mistake, written by a former TV development exec. He says that giving users what they want — in the form of Hulu — isn’t a good idea because it undermines the TV networks’ brands. He uses the example of NBC, saying its value isn’t its programming, but rather “the more than 70 years that it has taken the network to create expectations for generation… The years that it has taken the network to train consumers to expect a level of quality that can’t be matched.”
Wow. We’ve talked a lot before about how media companies overvalue their content and don’t realize the importance of the services that distribute it, but completely ignoring the value of the content in favor of a TV network brand seems only slightly ridiculous. The guy is right in that network brands don’t have any meaning any more, but it’s not Hulu that did this. It was because the networks failed to keep up with changing viewer preferences and demands, and responded to the rise of the DVR and other new technologies with attempts to set up obstacles, rather than innovation. Viewers’ loyalties now lie with individual shows, and the channel upon which they’re transmitted is meaningless. The strong brands are the shows, not the networks. People simply set their DVR to catch all the programs, or they go to Hulu, ignoring the network. Even people who watch their TV the old-fashioned way don’t have much awareness or interest in the network brands, beyond the evening newscasts (maybe). The former exec’s advice for networks is to keep their shows locked up on their own sites so they can “stand by their brand.” But where does the brand ever deliver the value that he thinks they have? Sure, the networks can try to prop up their brands by making things more difficult for their audience online — but they’ve tried that strategy, and it hasn’t worked. So perhaps opening up access to their content, and getting themselves (and their brands) out of the way, is a better way forward.