Around 1:45AM this morning, Hulu shed the covers of private beta and opened to the public. Anyone in the U.S. can now come to our site and watch any of our videos for free. No special software needed other than a web browser, Flash player, and an internet connection. PC, Mac, Linux users, we support all of you.
We've all substituted caffeinated beverages for sleep for days now, and this morning I came into work with my t-shirt on backwards. Coherence is going to be a bit of a reach.
We have increased our content lineup significantly. Among my favorites:
- Every episode ever of Arrested Development, all 52 of them.
- The Big Lebowski. Dude.
- The Lonely Goatherd from The Sound of Music, and the other musical numbers you'd expect from there: Sixteen Going on Seventeen, Maria, Do Re Mi, Edelweiss, My Favorite Things, So Long, Farewell, and The Hills Are Alive. Pauline Kael may not be a fan, but it's the music of my childhood.
- Kagemusha . Yeah, the Akira Kurosawa classic!
- The top 10 moves of February from the NBA. Warning: more than a few ankles are broken in this one. And here's that crazy Chris Paul dribble move from the All-Star Game, in which he fakes a crossover and snaps the ball back to himself with backspin, goes by the defender, and dishes to the trailer for the dunk. Chris Paul is crazy good.
- "Down by the River" from SNL, featuring Chris Farley. I miss that guy, and I miss his show.
- "Ultimate Power in the Universe" from Family Guy: Blue Harvest. Watching for free is a great way to try out shows you've heard of but missed out on the first time around, and Family Guy has been that show for me, the one that Hulu got me hooked on.
People love to associate Hulu with big media because of some of our investors, but Hulu is a startup through and through (look at the team photo below, taken at around 1:50 this morning--I don't think we look big media, do you?). It's the smallest company I've ever worked at if you don't count the lemonade stand I ran one summer day when I was about 8. Smaller than Amazon.com was when I worked there. We have our initial investments from which to run our company, but we're not going to be spending it on big parties with models walking around holding trays of saffron baby lamb chops. No, our pre-launch evening meal for everyone pulling an all-nighter was some 100 tacos from a local taco truck here in Santa Monica, at the extravagant cost of $1.25 per taco. Our biggest spend that night, out of our own pockets, was to raise $160 among the team to dare one of our star programmers Andrew to drink two cups of salsa, one red hot, one green, in 30 seconds. Andrew woke this morning $160 richer, though I'd venture to guess he paid the price sometime during the day.
A small group of people, a little family, work night and day (sometimes more night than day) to put this site together from scratch. Some of the user e-mails I've read make the easy assumption that we're an ignorant, uncaring media behemoth, but we do care, perhaps too much for our own peace of mind. Between Eric, Betina, and myself, we've read well over 10,000 e-mails since we went into our private beta, and rather than go the form e-mail response route, we've tried to respond personally to every e-mail we can. We're gratified by the compliments, and we agonize over the angry e-mails, even the inaccurate and/or profane ones.
We do want to be able to distribute our content internationally. We do want to offer more episodes of every show on our site. We do want more varied ad creative so that we don't have to watch the same ad spots over and over. We do want closed-captioning on every video on our site. And we do want to do it legally, in a way that compensates the creative people all the way back at the start of the food chain. Not a day goes by that we don't wish we could just accelerate the future with a snap of our fingers and have everyone in the world streaming HD content to their plasma TV's.
It's easy to bash big media and claim to be forced to resort to piracy, and it is absolutely the right of users to write in with their honest feedback. It's the most useful kind. But it's far harder to try to fix the problems. It's easy to open up your blog editor and rip the movie you just saw. It's exponentially harder to go out and make a movie. It's easy to laugh at some startup you read about in the news because the business plan sounds terrible. It's much harder to start a company yourself.
We're working here to try to fix the industry from within. We want to be able to watch all our favorite videos however we want, just like you. We're building this service to be one we want to use. We're not anywhere near the finish line. It always feels like the to-do list outweighs the completed side of the ledger. But if it didn't, then it wouldn't be that interesting a challenge, and most of us probably wouldn't be here.
Check out our site, and if you don't mind, help spread the word. The more users we can rally to our cause, the quicker we can transform things for the better.