Why the Comcast-NBC merger is no reason to fear for Hulu’s future

December 10, 2009

Will Comcast take a bite out of Hulu?

Illustration by JPT

Ever since the rumors of Comcast’s now-impending acquisition of NBC-Universal began buzzing, so too have questions about whether the future of Hulu — the free video streaming site part-owned by NBC — is at stake.

After all, observers noted, much of the content made available for free on Hulu was previously only accessible via cable subscription, the necessity of which consumers have begun to question, thanks to the recession and the availability of free television content on the Internet. Will Comcast mess with Hulu?

I don’t think we should worry about losing Hulu as we know it anytime soon. Here’s why:

  1. Fancast. Comcast has already launched its own version of Hulu called Fancast. Same deal: Lots of TV shows and a smattering of movies. For free. Obviously, Comcast isn’t opposed to streaming TV content online for free. (To be fair, one counterargument could be: Exactly. Comcast may try to throttle Hulu’s success in favor of its own site. However… )
  2. If Comcast pulls NBC’s content out of Hulu, it will not only piss everybody off (okay, fine, you’re right, Comcast *is* used to doing that), but it will leave ABC and other content providers who will remain on Hulu– ie, Comcast’s new competitors — with an advantage.
  3. I don’t have cable. I watch all my TV shows online. But guess who I shell out $60 a month to for Internet access. That’s right: Comcast. Something tells me those bastards will find a way to leverage their ISP business to make up for lost cable subscribers and still end up being an obscenely profitable company.
  4. There’s still stuff you can only get (legally) from a cable subscription. While many – if not most – popular television shows are available to stream online for free, many are still only available via cable. Many sports broadcasts and new episodes of “premium” HBO shows can’t easily be found online to stream and thus, an incentive still exists for people to purchase a cable subscription. Besides…
  5. Most of the NBC-owned content currently on Hulu is network TV, and thus doesn’t require a cable subscription to view anyway. I can watch The Office and 30 Rock on TV without cable. Unless Comcast/NBC would pull these shows just to hurt Hulu’s traffic, I can’t see a compelling business reason for them to restrict access to them on Hulu.
  6. Of course, anything can happen. Many people just expect a negative outcome when Comcast is involved, which is not totally unjustified. Indeed, they may find a way to ruin or water-down Hulu. But there are plenty of good reasons for it not to.



    Related Posts: » How to save hundreds of dollars on cable; »Eliminating the cable bill, part deux: Boxee!

2) Wufoo: Stupid-easy Web forms

June 9, 2009
Drag-and-drop form fields, make up some questions and hit 'save'.  That's all.

Drag-and-drop form fields, make up some questions and hit 'save'. That's all.

2. Wufoo


Wufoo is old news for some, but still one of the most handy Web publishing services I’ve come across in the last few years. HTML forms can be a hassle for even the most skilled Web designers and developers. With Wufoo, you can create attractive, extremely customizable HTML forms in a drag-and-drop WYSIWYG interface that even John McCain could use, I bet.

In addition to creating and publishing Web forms, Wufoo also serves as a management console for all your forms, providing rich statistics on usage and collecting all the data for you. Even the most stealthy of Web Ninjas will benefit from Wufoo’s timesaving form creation.

Coolest features:

  • Endlessly customizable: From questions and field types to the CSS that styles it all, practically every pixel can be adjusted to suit your needs.
  • Easy (or advanced, if you prefer) integration: Link to the Wufoo-hosted form directly, or embed it into any Webpage at the drop of a code snippet. Or download the form’s source files and upload it to your own Web server (server-side programming required)
  • SMS & email: in addition to storing responses in Wufoo’s web-based database, you can have it emailed or sent to you via SMS text message. (Hint: this is an easy way to make a clean, usable contact form with no programming required)

Limitations: Won’t make a turkey sandwich for you? Honestly, I can’t think of any.

How to get started: Head over to Wufoo.com and sign-up (free).

For more information: Check out this brief video tutorial on using Wufoo by Chris Coyier of CSS-Tricks.com.

1) Blip.tv: A free, state-of-the-art video platform

June 7, 2009
Blip.tv is a highly capable - and free - video delivery service that lets you cross-post to other media-sharing sites as well.

Blip.tv is a highly capable - and free - video delivery service that lets you cross-post to other media-sharing sites as well.

1. Blip.tv


For a free Web video delivery service, Blip.tv’s offering can’t be beat; It even rivals some paid platforms. Sure, you could upload your videos to YouTube, but Blip’s player has no mandatory branding (it’s effectively white-label) and gives you more options.

Coolest features:

  • Developer API to let your Web geeks build a fancy custom player (see MobLogic).
  • Cross-post everything you upload to MySpace, Flickr, Facebook and other media sharing sites automatically.
  • Upload videos via your Web browser, FTP, desktop application or mobile device.
  • Blip automatically publishes standard RSS feeds and feeds optimized for iTunes (among other services). So, all you have to do is upload an iPod-compatible video format to your Blip account and – wa-la! – you’re a video podcaster.
  • Viewership stats: How many people are watching?
  • Basic advertising options: third-party pre-rolls, post-rolls and overlay ads. Blip gives you 50% of the revenue.

Limitations: Advertising is delivered through third-party networks and, of course, you split the cash with Blip. If your organization sells advertising and/or wants to keep 100% of the advertising revenue, you’ll have to look to a paid platform like Brightcove or Twistage.

How to get started: Shoot and edit your video(s). Go to www.blip.tv and sign up. Developers, check out the Blip API developer documentation for more info on how to customize Blip.

Recession-proof Web Publishing: 4 handy tools

June 7, 2009

So, you dodged the last round of layoffs. The company that employees you still exists. Great! You still need a bitchin’, modern Website, whether or not there’s a budget for such a thing.

Don’t worry, you needn’t sell a lung to buy a shiny new enterprise CMS or dip into the kids’ college fund to pay a developer to code something from scratch. There are plenty of free (sometimes “freemium”) tools, plug-ins and products out there.

In this series, we’ll look at four of the most useful and easy-to-use.

As with any Web-publishing technology, knowing your way around code (or having access to a front-end developer) will enable you to take the fullest advantage of each of them, but none of them require it.

So let’s get started…

»Part One: Publishing video with Blip.tv

»Part Two: Stupid-easy Web forms with Wufoo

»Part Three: Turn your PDF’s into interactive Flash books with Issuu

» Part Four: Launch a mobile version of your Website in minutes with Mofuse

Obama: I’ll use the Internet to improve democracy

November 4, 2008

For all the non-stop coverage of the 2008 presidential race, one thing that hasn’t gotten much play is the candidates’ positions on technology and the Internet. Perhaps it’s not as sexy as Obama high-fiving terrorists or Palin spending a billion dollars on high heels, but it is pretty important to the future of our society.

McCain’s positions on these issues are pretty middle-of-the-road and watered-down (although he does oppose net neutrality). It appears to not be a high priority for a man who openly admits that he doesn’t use e-mail.

Barack Obama, however, has a pretty detailed, rather progressive platform pertaining to media, technology and the Web. All other politics aside, Obama’s positions on this should excite even the most cynical Web geeks, journalists and citizens in general.


Government 2.0?

It’s worth remembering that the people who invented democracy viewed the free flow of information as absolutely critical to the success of their experiment. This fact was not lost on America’s Founding Fathers, who remarked that “our liberty cannot be guarded but by liberty of the press” (Thomas Jefferson) and that any attempt at democracy without widespread public access to information would amount to “a prologue to a farce, or a tragedy, or perhaps both.” (James Madison)

When Madison and Jefferson got all giddy about a free press, they were literally referring to the printing press. When the Constitution and its Bill of Rights were drafted, they didn’t know about Google. They didn’t even have Alta Vista or Meta-Crawler. The technological advances that we all take for granted were utterly inconceivable when democracy was dreamed up.

So, if the means of acquiring information are now exponentially more sophisticated and instantaneous than they were back then, shouldn’t it follow that public participation in government – true democracy – is now more attainable than ever?

Maybe. It depends on how well the government embraces technology and new media.

Obama can has Internets for change.

Welcome to the future: Obama can has Internets for change.
Credit: PhotoshopTalent.com

To be sure, the Internet has already begun to have a dramatic impact on the news media, politics and the flow of information, even without the aid of government policy. Imagine how things will look in 10 years if the government jumps on the Internet bandwagon we’ve all been gleefully riding for years.


Some of Obama’s proposals:

  • Obama proposes making essential data about government programs and spending readily available online for citizens to view and analyze.
  • Under the Obama plan, citizens will be solicited for input on some (they don’t say which) important public policy decisions via the Web.
  • Obama will require his cabinet members to webcast internal meetings and deliberations online, as well as provide the means for the public to participate in such meetings.
  • Any “non-emergency” legislation will be available on the White House website for five days so that citizens can read and comment on it before it gets signed.
  • Modern web technologies like blogs, wikis and social networking sites will be used for cross-departmental communication and collaboration within the federal government.
  • All of the above will be overseen by the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer (CTO), whom Obama will appoint. This new cabinet-level position will ensure adherence to the latest standards and best practices in technology across the federal government. Anybody who’s ever tried to navigate any government Web site knows how important this is.

It is worth noting that although issues like media ownership reform and net neutrality have begun to capture some public attention in the last five years, there is no overwhelming public demand for things like next-generation broadband adoption, the first-ever appointment of a federal CTO or using the Web to make government more transparent.

In other words, these are all things that either candidate could easily get away with not promising, or even talking much about. But the Obama campaign has decided to take these issues seriously on its own accord, consulting tech industry heavyweights and paling around with Google’s leadership.

Only time will tell, of course, if President Obama will make good on all of these promises. But the mere fact that he’s even making them is a pretty good sign.