First Look: Hulu Video Service

Restrictions Apply

As Tom Waits grumbles, "The large print giveth and the small print taketh away." While Hulu may give people a bit more control over when and where they watch TV shows, the Terms and Conditions page imposes some fairly harsh restrictions on Web viewing.

First, Hulu video is streamed only, so you can't save shows to your hard drive. Most notably, streams of the prime time TV episodes simply expire after five weeks. So if you embed one of them at your blog, after five weeks you'll see a dead link there.  Also, you can't watch Hulu video on mobile devices or if you happen to live outside the United States.

It's anybody's guess if these restrictions come from the old protectionist mindset of the studios, or as a result of pressure from their old cable and satellite distribution partners. It should be said, though, that Hulu is only in early beta, so some of the restrictions may eventually be lifted.

Hulu: Just the Beginning?

Finally, while the content is impressive, Hulu is by no means a total destination point. It only contains content from NBC/Universal and Fox (and some smaller partners). It's very unlikely that CBS, ABC, Viacom and Disney will throw their video onto Hulu any time soon.

Smart money says we'll eventually see two or three more large, competing Hulu-type portals launched by the other major studios either together or in pairs  (Actually, ABC already has a competitor germinating at ABC.com, and the video there looks as good as or better than Hulu's).

How will this work for viewers? Simple. If you don't like the shows on one portal, you'll just grab the mouse and, well, "change the channel."

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