Internet television shifting from the public sphere to a privatized commodity

| Forum Editor

When I saw that Hulu took “Arrested Development” Seasons 2 and 3 off their site, I almost threw my computer out my window. After cooling down (by watching a Season 1 episode), I realized that this is just one instance where Internet television providers have started taking down videos because they do not receive enough revenue from them.

You may wonder, “Why should they post videos if they’re not profiting from them?” However, the real issue is that companies like Hulu act as middle-men for media corporations like NBC and FOX, and these companies are realizing how many viewers they have. With this realization, they assume that they now have more power to dictate which shows should be presented, depending on where they get more advertisements.

Once content is placed on the Internet, do Internet television providers like Hulu have the right to take it down simply because they feel like it? The problem presented by Hulu is that its Web site has millions of viewers who prefer the higher quality and dependable show presentation and act on that power—and Hulu knows this.

Indeed, Hulu is somewhat revolutionary in the sense that people can go to a Web site that has permission from several media corporations to post videos that people may not have time to watch when they come out on TV. I’m even willing to go as far as to say that I can deal with the annoying ads that pop up every 10 minutes, as long as I can get the shows I want at the quality of regular TV.

A few years back, when Hulu did not exist, media corporations had to deal with hundreds of Web sites that would take copyrighted videos and post them on the Internet for general viewership. Sites would have questionable sources of movies and videos, but most of them were free and did not have any ads in the middle of the videos. Media giants realized there was no way of winning the war against Robin Hoods of copyrighted videos. So they decided to aid Hulu, a Web site that would have only copyrighted material (with permission, of course) from specific media corporations. Guess who owns Hulu? NBC, FOX and ABC all have major stakes in Hulu ownership; so when Hulu announces that a show will be taken off their Web site, it’s probably due to NBC, FOX or ABC’s demands.

In the end, viewers like us (whom Hulu insincerely thanks) must grit our teeth and look elsewhere for free online television and movies of quality. The idea of Hulu sounds great (especially the free part), but when major corporations start dipping their hands into the batter, commercialization is sure to follow. Yes, it may be illegal to post copyrighted material, but can we ever reach a middle ground where viewers can get free Internet television without the hassles of commercialization and without breaking any laws?

While that debate goes on, I don’t need Hulu anyway. I’ve got Ninjavideo.

Aditya is a junior in Arts & Sciences and a Forum editor. He can be reached via e-mail at asarvesh@artsci.wustl.edu.