Last weekend, during a broadcast of American institution The Simpsons, a commercial appeared for Hulu, the streaming video service. It featured Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane doing the voices of several of his creations, including Stewie and Peter Griffin.
What was unusual about the spot is that you had network TV promoting what, in the future, may be its biggest competitor – streaming video services.
Hulu itself was born of network television – NBC/Universal is part owner of it. And it seems to the the service that the major networks are most clamoring to be a part of – ABC, this week, was cutting a deal to run its shows on the service, and Fox is, of course, already a part of it.
Furthermore, Hulu may someday reach beyond your PC to your television.
Wired Magazine ran an article
in its most recent edition in which writer Steven Levy managed to watch Hulu content on his big-screen television. It took some doing, involving the Boxee video browser and Apple TV, plus a few technical glitches – but he managed to do it.
Now, imagine what will happen a few years down the line if those glitches are removed, and getting streaming online content on your TV is as easy as pushing a couple of buttons on a remote. (Granted, a limited amount of streaming video can be accessed through the Wii browser, but you can't get Hulu. Believe me, I tried).
Streaming video is already the home of a lot of niche entertainment, like anime. The logical next step is original content for Hulu – not just amateur-generated video like what shows up on YouTube now, but full productions.
There's already been a lot of press in the wake of "ER" and "Guiding Light" leaving the air about how traditional TV dramas and soap operas are dinosaurs as far as the networks are concerned. These media are perfect candidates to be picked up and revived as online entertainment (especially soaps, which are relatively inexpensive to produce).
So if you're thinking of writing, producing etc. for the television industry, maybe it's best to think outside the box – literally. Keep the brave new frontier of streaming video in mind, because someday, it may be firmly in the mainstream of American entertainment. After all, this blogger remembers a time when cable television was considered something on the fringes.