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Hulu's 924 million monthly streams: what do they mean?

by Barry Flynn

Much has been made of the fact that, according to Hulu - the online video service owned by NBC Universal, News Corporation and Disney - the number of monthly Hulu viewers grew to over 43 million in December 2009, a 95 percent increase over the previous year.

Monthly streams grew to 924 million over the same period. Sounds a lot, doesn't it - but what do these figures mean, exactly?

To be able to gauge what inroads online video is making on the traditional, broadcast variety, we really need to talk in the same terms - for instance, what share of total TV viewing this represents. But Internet content companies always measure their performance in terms of users, streams and downloads - because it sounds good and (I suspect) because comparing apples to apples would cast them in an unflattering light.

Well, let's try and convert some oranges to apples: the most recent data from Comscore (the measurement company responsible for the figure mentioned in the Hulu blog) says that "The average Hulu viewer watched 20.1 videos, totaling 2 hours of videos per viewer." So Hulu's 43 million viewers would have racked up 86 million hours of viewing.

How much does the 'traditional' US TV audience watch in a month? Recent Ofcom research put the average figure for viewing in 2008 at 4.6 hours a day, so that gives a monthly total of close to 140 hours of viewing a month per person.

Nielsen, meanwhile, reports that for the 2008-2009 season, there were nearly 290 million TV viewers. Multiply the two figures together, and you get 40.6 billion hours of viewing across the US TV audience as a whole per month. The Hulu figure, if you do the math, is about 0.2% of that.

Is that good or bad? That's a matter of opinion. What I do know, however, is that Hulu's CEO would be unlikely to boast about that figure on his company blog....

Contact: barryflynn.typepad.com/barry_flynn

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Prospects for 3D in the home

There has been a lot of hype about 3D TV. But the industry getting behind a broad realm of technologies is a far cry from a monetisable mass market. Fundamentally, 3D is complex, more so than HD as technology and ecosystem. Screen Digest' TOM MORROD examines the issue.

This complexity will be reflected in uptake of 3D. It is often said that 3D is easier for consumers to 'see' than HD, thus driving true demand. But it can be countered that a market is not just about demand. It is about supply, price and information - all in questionable quantities.

Supply is a big piece of the puzzle and crucially, like HD, 3D is an ecosystem. It is certainly about the TV receiver, polarised or active switching; the glasses (easily forgotten but not necessarily 'in the box'). But it also takes in the decoding device - set-top box, games console or BD player; the distribution medium (broadcast/unicast), games console or 3D BD; the content and the process of capture, editing and contribution, including broadcasting infrastructure when not printed to disc.

Only about 20 per cent of broadcaster equipment is HD, 30 per cent of TV screens and less than that of set-top boxes. We are still in a very early stage of actual upgrade across the HD ecosystem. And while the HD infrastructure across broadcasters and operators can be used to transmit lower resolution 3D to some existing HD PVRs, all those TV screens will need replacing.

Price is a murky issue spanning both consumer and professional equipment. Many of the early announced prices for 3D TV sets are considerable inflations on similar non-3D TVs. This is especially true for passive polarised, where more technology is built into the display. However, active switching, offering screens at similar prices to non-3D displays, have a hidden cost: the glasses may cost up to $150 a pair, a major consumer cost.... Read More...