Say Hello to Hulu

The big media partnership that has been percolating for months may have missed its original summer launch deadline, but now it has a name, a game plan, and an October beta launch date.

You may have already forgotten when News Corp. (NYSE: NWS  ) and General Electric's (NYSE: GE  ) majority-owned NBC Universal announced an upcoming launch of a megasite for clip-culture junkies. The companies would team up with other content-producing heavies to stream content from a new website, syndicating the content through nearly every important video-sharing site but Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) YouTube.

Well, the threat to take on YouTube is no longer a silent one. Hulu.com is now up, extending beta invitations to users in anticipation of its launch in two months. The emphasis on screening full shows may make it seem like less of a YouTube killer and more like a shot at the momentum that Joost is building, but most would agree that time spent streaming on one video site means less time spent at another.

We don't know a whole lot about the interface at Hulu, even though the terms and conditions page offers a few ideas. Beyond the strict user submission policy, what I find really intriguing is the mention of rules for discussion boards, chat rooms, and blogs.

So this won't be just a place to put up with video ads between TV shows. If Hulu gets it right, it wants you in all of your Web 2.0 glory.

Some networks have tried to build community sites tied to some of their favorite shows, but it hasn't been an easy sell to consumers. The interaction is often too limited. So Hulu's approach is surprising. It really wants to bank on registered users chiming in with their opinions.

Even the big video-sharing sites like YouTube and News Corp.'s MySpace have been slow to embrace community-building applications beyond the chronological listings of user comments. Hulu's heart is in the right interactive place, although that doesn't mean it's going to be easy.

Why should a community congregate around Hulu instead of a more obvious hub like CNET's (Nasdaq: CNET  ) TV.com? Why should they blog at Hulu when it would be easier to make a little money off the gray-matter spillage by opening a blog through Google's Blogger and putting up AdSense text ads?

That has often been the humbling downfall of sites that feel entitled to milk communities for free content in a Web 2.0 revolution, long after their users have smartened up and found websites where they can get a piece of the action for their video uploads and text submissions.

You can't blame Hulu for trying. Besides, we're still weeks removed from actual beta testing. Until we know what the website is bringing to the table -- beyond the challenge of getting clip-culture addicts to sit through entire shows -- all we're left with is a heaping bowl of speculation and the bewilderment behind a silly brand name.

Sure, two-syllable nonsense worked for companies like Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) and Google, but is this really the best that media giants can come up with?

Other stories about the new online consortium:

Yahoo! is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor newsletter selection. CNET is a Rule Breakers recommendation. A free 30-day trial subscription to either newsletter is waiting, giving you a chance to brush up well before the Hulu beta starts.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is ready to officially classify himself as a clip-culture junkie. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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