updated 03:25 pm EDT, Thu May 13, 2010
Wei: Technology 'not ready yet'
Hulu -- the TV streaming service owned by ABC, NBC and Fox -- will not be switching to HTML5 anytime soon, according to the company's product VP, Eugene Wei. "We continue to monitor developments on HTML5, but as of now it doesn't yet meet all of our customers' needs," Wei writes in a blog post. "Our player doesn't just simply stream video, it must also secure the content, handle reporting for our advertisers, render the video using a high performance codec to ensure premium visual quality, communicate back with the server to determine how long to buffer and what bitrate to stream, and dozens of other things that aren't necessarily visible to the end user."
"Not all video sites have these needs, but for our business these are all important and often contractual requirements," the VP concludes.
The post has since been removed, but is likely a response to increasing pressure to support Apple handhelds, namely the iPad. The iPhone OS is incapable of playing Flash content, and so depends on either HTML5 or dedicated apps for video. Networks like CBS have already begun streaming some video in HTML5, but Wei's claims suggest that Hulu will go the dedicated route if it wants to support Apple in the near future.
Mentioned in the VP's post, in fact, is a new custom Flash player, equipped with adaptive bitrate streaming, normalization for ad volume, and a larger video window that shows controls only when mousing over. A variety of interface tweaks have been made as well, such as the addition of preview thumbnails for seek, and alternate closed captioning styles. The rest of Hulu is being upgraded with revised homepages, personalized recommendations and the insertion of survey questions in place of some ads.