Web site of the week

For years now, every traditional media source has been sweating under the pressure caused by the unbridled distribution of information across the Internet.

CD sales are dropping, people are canceling their newspaper subscriptions, and all types of media are being consumed without the creators receiving proper payment. Apparently it’s hard to justify dishing out a whopping $390 for the complete 33-disc series of The Sopranos when you can get it for free on the Web, even if this vastly less expensive method is also vastly less legal.

The problem is that these entertainment sources are businesses first. If they’re not making money, they’re not going to make a product. Hulu.com is the first step toward corporate-sanctioned integration of television and film into the Internet. The site’s income is generated entirely through advertising. Take a one-hour episode and stick five 15-second commercials for Toyota throughout the length. The producers get paid, we get free TV any time we want with 10-times less advertising, and Toyota gets to have exclusive rights to our consumer compulsions for a full hour. Everyone’s happy.

Hulu’s library is wide but incomplete. The companies involved are new in the area and testing the water, so while you’ll find a few full-length episodes from any given series, rarely will you find a full season, let alone a complete series. For the most part, the quality of each show is at or below 480p resolution, which is what you see on a normal broadcast television, so unless you’ve got your computer hooked up to your TV, you’re going to be leaning in a lot closer than you normally would.

Hulu needs time to grow. It’s a good source to sate your media craving, but it is inconsistent at best. NBC and ABC currently offer HD streaming of their entire libraries, and other channels are trying to mature their own online projects, so until Hulu establishes itself as the popular source, these individual alternatives are probably preferable.

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