Hulu Owners: Should We Shoot Ourselves in the Foot?

I don’t own a stereotypical TV and almost never watch video that originally appeared on conventional TV stations. I’ve also never had a subscription to cable TV. That being said, I will occasionally use Hulu to watch Glee, which is a lot of fun and not stupid and tedious—unlike most TV shows. I’m apparently not the only person who noticed this; the L.A. Times published “Hulu is popular, but that wasn’t the goal: Its owners — the parents of ABC, Fox and NBC — fear the TV website may hurt their bottom lines.”

Now the website faces changes that could curtail its trove of offerings or require users to pay for episodes they currently watch for free. Once hailed as the networks’ solution in taming the Internet, Hulu’s stunning success is now undermining the very system it was designed to protect, forcing the site’s owners to reconsider what Hulu should be.

The big problem, however, is that Hulu doesn’t just compete against network TV and cable. It also competes against BitTorrent sites. Now, because I enormously respect copyright law, I would never, ever, use such sites because they’re really convenient. Never. Just like as a 16 year old, I didn’t use Napster like all my friends did to download music.

In “The Other Road Ahead,” Paul Graham says, “Near my house there is a car with a bumper sticker that reads “death before inconvenience.” Most people, most of the time, will take whatever choice requires least work.” In this respect, I am most people, and people who want to watch TV are probably thinking the same thing. If Fox, ABC, and NBC don’t want to become tomorrow’s newspapers, they might want to contemplate what death before inconvenience means.

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