It comes as no surprise that YouTube has made some changes to its business, some that have been well publicized–such as its attempt to shed its “mature” content and give video creators the ability to easily add licensed music to their clips–and others a tad more subtle. In late November, YouTube’s player suddenly changed its viewer from a 320×480 experience to a 480×360 window. Those who closely follow the world’s largest online video site noticed but the move was done with little fanfare. And, to take advantage of the new player, it seems (also without a big PR splash) YouTube now serves up HD quality for videos uploaded in HD. The exact nature of that HD requires further investigation, but look at one of my clips shot with my Flip HC camera and be sure to click the “play in HD” button to the right below the viewing window.
If I were to add another prediction to our recent report, “Predicts 2009: The Media Industry Looks for Equilibrium,” it would be that cyber-historians will note that 2009 was the year of the Steel Cage Match between YouTube and Hulu. I doubt that folks at Google appreciate the fact that Hulu has been successful at applying an advertising model to its business and that Hulu’s traffic spurt has allowed it to climb to #3 on the U.S. video list behind YouTube and Yahoo! with more than 6 million viewers for September 2008. By ridding itself of its lower-end UGC (think cat on a skateboard in the backyard shot with a camera phone) and improving the viewing experience, advertisers are likely to be more favorably inclined to spread their dollars around YouTube’s extensive inventory.
Hulu, on the other hand, will continue to add features that allow viewers to find more of what their looking for as well as broaden its content base. The guess here is that Hulu will crack the code in adding premium global content (who doesn’t want to see an uncensored Gordon Ramsey) to keep it ahead of the pack.
Hulu-YouTube: one fall, no time limit. Maybe not a zero-sum game, but pretty close