The Fast Company 50 - 2009
#3 Hulu

In early 2007, Fox and NBC Universal announced plans for a joint startup intended to shake up the way people watch TV shows online. To which the industry scoffed, "Yeah, right."

YouTube had already established itself as the Web's video clearinghouse, and ABC, the first network to rebroadcast TV episodes free on its site, wasn't partici-pating. "I think there's a snarky desire to say, 'This is big dumb media and this is a big dumb joint venture,'?" Peter Chernin, president and COO of Fox's parent company, News Corp., told The New York Times.

Today, that much-derided joint venture, now known as Hulu, is looking bigger and smarter all the time.

Hulu is constantly asking networks and studios for content. Older shows, such as In Living Color, may arrice on Betamax cassettes. For a new episode of SNL, a staffer stays up late to encode it immediately.

"The video is the stat," STO Feng says. The screen is a third larger than YouTube's. Features like "Lower lights," which mutes the surrounding Hulu page, and "Full screen" help the video stand out.

Hulu is mum, but it reportedly charges more for its ads on a cost-per-thousand basis than the networks do for TV. It entices advertisers wiht popular shows and its "like/dislike" button, with which users rate ads.

"Pop out," for multitaskers, creates a smaller video window you can place anywhere on your computer screen so you can email or work while watching.

Hulu claims to index all available TV content on the Web. Search for Lost and the site displays thumbnails from, not a Hulu partner. Conveniance, says CEO Kilar, trumps competition.

Hulu watched every minute of content before it appears on the site. Even the thumbnails are individually chosen to make sure the image matches the show (or actor) for a given search.

Hulu allows users to clip and email favorite scenes and move its video player to any site. Alreay it has more than 2.1 million players embedded throughout the Web, complete with ads and video controls.