Hulu, NBC and Fox's TV-show site, is now open to all

Old-media firms launch a very new-media product.

By Farhad Manjoo
Published March 12, 2008 5:23PM (EDT)

Last October, I raved about Hulu, the TV- and movie-streaming Web site that NBC Universal and Fox launched as an invitation-only test of their anti-YouTube ambitions.

Today, Hulu opens to the public, and I have to say that I'm as enamored of it now as I was back then. If you like TV but are away from a television and your favorite shows -- at work, at a hotel, at grandma's -- Hulu is a fantastic alternative.

Hulu is not meant as a substitute for YouTube. The site does not accept videos from the public: Instead, Hulu has episodes from more than 200 TV series, movies and sports broadcasts. It streams full episodes of many popular shows currently on the air -- for instance "The Office," "Saturday Night Live," "House," "30 Rock," -- as well as a huge, nostalgia-inducing library of past favorites (you remember "The A-Team" and "Doogie Howser, M.D.," but do you remember "Dream On"?)

Hulu offers full seasons of many old shows. But Hulu's got only the newest episodes of newer shows, so if you want to start watching "The Office" from the beginning, you'll be better off getting the DVDs.

Of course, because not everyone can connect their computers to their TVs, DVDs offer a better viewing experience anyway. I've found Hulu best for spur-of-the-moment TV watching -- like, it's 1 p.m., you're eating a sandwich at your desk, and you want to do something mindless for 15 minutes. Well, hey, why not catch Ernest Borgnine in "Airwolf"?

In addition, Hulu's got minimal ads, snappy quality, and a nice Web interface. The site even allows you to embed video on your own site, as I've done below with one of my favorite bits from "Arrested Development." In other words, Hulu allows so many options you'd never guess it was designed by old-media companies.

Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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