SXSWi2009: Quality – the Next Online Video Opportunity

Speaker – Eric Feng, Hulu

I arrived late at this one, but still took a boatload of notes. Online video is amazing, and Hulu is right there in the thick of it! Here’s what I heard:

Video 3.0:

continual growth of broadband:

  • median US broadband speed in 2008 was 2.3 Mb/s – still lots of room to grow. Some can get 10 Mb/s
  • In Japan, the median broadband speed is 63 Mb/s !!!

Video technology innovatin is continuing

  • better hardware – more powerful PC CPUs and GPUs
  • better video codecs – H264 as great open source example thats used in many places (ie., YouTube and DVD, for example)
  • Better video platforms – multi-bitrate streaming, intelligent buffering
  • iPhone has the processing speed of a PC around 1998-1999

Marketplace for premium content is there

  • video content has changed
  • now full TV shows are online
  • there are fully-produced, professional-quality web-only shows

Online video ads expected to grow 45% to $850 million in 2009

  • people/companies can monetize content
  • 150% growth in 2007 for online tv
  • 200% growth in 2008

Stuff about Hulu:

The Underwater pyramid – great example of a pyramid with the tip sticking out of the water – the tip is what you see, a small company. The stuff under the water is all the mega technology required to make that company run. It’s a huge technology base.

“Worthy or remark” – Hulu’s rallying cry. They want their stuff to be this, and want people to say this about Hulu when Hulu’s “not in the room”

Great content deserves great quality – 90% of videos available in high resolution 480p – that’s standard def TV/DVD quality video. Wow.

Closed captions to enhance video viewing:

  • thousands of videos have this on Hulu
  • it’s incredibly hard to do
  • they have to sync timecode
  • the V companies store the closed caption content in a variety of ways, including in SMIL and XML, and they have to figure out how to parse it into the videos

Obsess over every pixel

  • review process for every thumbnail on the site
  • they actually look at every one
  • 16X9 thumbnails, optimized for different sizes
  • working on the experience – they’re obsessed over the details
  • they actually used technology to automatically crop shows/thumbnails that were sized 4X3 to 16X9
  • They made it a game in their company, complete with prizes – they had 20,000 thumbnails to do

Innovations you use, but don’t notice

  • query-aware thumbnails
  • same video has different thumbnails depending on your search query

Aside – Eric played their newest Hulu TV ad today – it’s not out on TV yet…

Q – when will Hulu be on my TV/Set top box?

A – still focused on the PC and browser. He said in regards to the TV/Video content world, “they’re the tallest midget in the room”

Q – Canadians can’t get Hulu – when will you be in other countries? I guess Hulu is only available in the US right now.

A – it’s because of rights – they have to sometimes negotiate those rights show-by-show, region-by-region. Wow. They are committed to worldwide. And Eric said “Canada first. Promise.”

Q/A – about Ad revenue – Hulu actually makes more money on with ads online for, example, the show 3rd Rock than the traditional broadcast companies make with traditional commericals. That’s amazing! And they share their ad revenue with the owners of the content.