Expert says: "It really looks good," says Alex Patriquin of Web analysis firm Compete. "It's got all the cool shows Hulu has to offer and a few extras, and it's doing quite well. They had almost 450,000 visitors in December, so it's off to a very strong start."
Description: More than a video-rich website, Hulu is the online distribution service launched three months ago by NBC Universal and News Corp. (Fox). Its content can be found as well on AOL, Fancast, MSN, MySpace and Yahoo. Episodes range from recent Fox and NBC shows to older series including Firefly, Kojak and Miami Vice. Videos can be sent via e-mail or embedded into personal websites.
Experience:You request to join the beta trial, and once invited, you create a profile and start browsing episodes organized by genre or studio/network. An episode of The Office begins after a message from a sponsor. Two additional ads run during the widescreen episode. Afterward, a link to buy the episode connects you to Amazon Unbox, which sells $1.99 downloads. Hulu offers five other Office episodes and numerous clips.
Expert says:"It remains to be seen if it will end up as a destination among the broader online audience," Patriquin says. "They certainly have a wealth of content that is probably unmatched in terms of high production-value content."
Description:Since opening to all users in beta test form last fall, Joost (from the creators of Net phone service Skype) has added nearly every episode of the original Star Trek along with programs from PBS and the NBA to its 20,000-plus shows, from CBS (including the recent Comanche Moon), Cartoon Network, Comedy Central and MTV. Each show has a chat room; send links to clips and episodes to friends.
Experience:Install software (a 26-megabyte download) and set up a profile. Then explore shows by type, alphabetically or search word. Click to play, or a "+" icon adds it to a channel you program. A short commercial plays and a small opaque ad appears in the lower-right corner of the screen for a few seconds. Video quality is good, a bit better than CBS.com's own video. A widget menu brings up a news ticker and lets you enter chat rooms.
Expert says:Patriquin wonders whether people want "a higher picture quality, which you have to jump through a hoop to get (having to download the software) or do you want to depend on Internet connectivity?"
Description:Launched more than two years ago as a TV listings and search engine, MeeVee has evolved into a full-scale video hub for shows from ABC, CBS, Fox and CW. Its customizable guide tracks favorites (actors, directors and hobbies) and creates a printable schedule and widget that can be posted on your blog. MeeVee blogs address TV issues and let users comment on topics and episodes.
Experience:Great-looking, but not everything worked smoothly: A link to NBC's Friday Night Lights actually led to NBC.com's page for Black Donnellys. Hit the "Watch Other Shows" option and eventually find 34 episodes to choose from. A movie trailer played before the episode, which has sharp video but loses some clarity at full-screen. Connections to ABC, CBS, CW and Fox shows worked smoothly.
Expert says:"They have this discovery and organization that a lot of the other sites lack. They are trying to be the online television guide," Patriquin says. "MeeVee's strategy of enabling a community of people to communicate on bulletin boards could be very effective."