Hulu, Anybody Home?

I am entirely in agreement with Slate’s Michael Agger that Hulu — the joint partnership between Fox and NBC that puts full length TV shows and movies online, for free — is the future of TV. But his article misses one important thing: Right now, Hulu does fullscreen viewing very, very poorly. And it’s not at all clear why.

Right now, if you try to watch TV shows on Hulu in fullscreen, they’ll herk, jerk, stop, start, look cruddy and jaggy — generally everything that makes online viewing annoying.

Other similar applications don’t have this problem at all. ABC, for instance puts episodes of Lost online in reasonably good quality HD. It looks a little jaggy at times and doesn’t entirely shut out the surrounding browser window, but it’s quite watchable, especially considering that just a few years ago watching most internet video was like looking at Lego replicas as soon through Harrison Bergeron-style distortion lenses.

Meanwhile, Netflix offers DVD quality video on demand for a little more than 6,000 films — and it’s basically perfect (although they don’t yet offer 5.1 sound). Short load times, perfect sound and picture. It’s better than watching the standard def channels on my TV. I’ve got a media server connected to my television, and watching Netflix this way is just as good as watching a movie through Comcast’s OnDemand — maybe better, considering OnDemand doesn’t even work properly half the time.

Right now, the fullscreen issue is not a particularly major one for Hulu because most people still watch internet video on computer screens. But as media servers and similar devices become more common, more folks are going to want to take advantage of the full real estate. And since the technology obviously exists to deliver video of that caliber already, I’m a little confused as to why Hulu wouldn’t make an effort to provide it now.