A review of Hulu.com

By Cory Bergman 

The NBC-News Corp. video joint venture Hulu.com launched in private beta, and just I toured the new site. Out of the gate, the first thing you’ll notice is the clean, theater-like design. Very sharp.

I clicked to play a Heroes episode, and it loaded and played quickly. (I received an “application error” on a couple other clips I attempted to play, but I’ll chalk that up to the beta experience.)

Mouse over the player (shown above) and you get the usual controls, but also some cool additions. The “embed” function allows you to set in and out points, so you can embed just a selected chunk of a video clip on your blog. “Lower lights” dims the whitespace around the player to dark gray. “Feedback” lets you alert Hulu to an inappropriate clip or technical problems. And “Pop out” turns the video player into a pop-up. On the full-screen mode, the video quality was sharp without stuttering (480kbps or 700kbps depending on your bandwidth.) You can leave comments under the player.

No ads served on the clips that I watched, but Hulu will display a variety of ad formats, from video to banners to text to overlays. The idea is to adjust the amount of advertising to the length of the clip. But in the end, of course, the ads will be much less intrusive and not as lengthy as TV.

Hulu divided the video pages into popular episodes, popular clips and browse titles. Each have the ability to sort in a variety of fashions. Again, very clean presentation, and there are a surprising number of TV shows available at launch (Hulu just added Sony Pictures Television and MGM to its list of content partners). In the browse titles mode, Hulu will tell you if a particular show is “on air” — not actually on the air right now, but in season. Also, you can click to add clips to your playlist.

On the profile page, you can upload a photo, track your reviews (comments) and see your most recent clips you’ve viewed, which are also available in a custom RSS feed. There’s also a spot for your own video uploads, but it looks like that feature is not live as of yet.

All in all, Hulu is a very slick video presentation site with a good variety of TV shows to start. I’d rather watch a NBC or Fox show on Hulu than the respective networks’ sites — Hulu’s user experience is better, and everything loads and plays very quickly. Beyond that, Hulu is lacking user uploads, downloads and social networking — which I imagine is on the development board — so in the meantime it’s a great place to watch TV shows, but that’s about that. Any other reviews from beta testers out there?

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