-->

Register now for our FREE webinar series, Streaming Media West Connect, happening September 29 - October 2!

Video: How Hulu Blurred the Lines Between Live, DVR, and VOD

Tim: Welcome back to Streaming Media East 2017. Here we are at the Almost Live booth with Tian Lim from Hulu. Tian, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Tian: Hi, I'm Tian Lim. I'm the CTO of Hulu. Prior to that I was at Sony PlayStation. Prior to that Xbox 360. Prior to that Nintendo GameCube.

Tim: Oh wow, so a whole lot of gaming and a little bit of TV now. All right, awesome. For those who weren't able to attend your keynote today, just give me a quick synopsis of what went on.

Tian: What I did was I quickly told the story of how we brought live streaming to Hulu. We really wanted to redefine the television experience and that brought to light some really interesting challenges in the industry that we didn't predict. Spoiler alert, it was about the metadata.

Tim: Right, sure. Yeah, yeah.

Tian: I think the mechanics of live streaming are pretty well known at this point and time. But landscape's gotten a lot more complicated over the last few years because of TV Everywhere I feel. There's a lot more fragmentation as a consequence. The arc of that was these are the challenges we face and these are the things that we believe we need to see in order for the industry to grow and innovate faster.

Tim: What were some of the guiding principles that you had as you went through this whole model of launching Hulu's offering?

Tian: Right, we really wanted to just rethink what a TV experience could be.

Tim: Okay.

Tian: There were three main principles. The TV built around you, everything On Demand and elegant and restrained. TV built around you is all about personalizing the experience for you. We wanted to really hide the fact that this is a very complicated space.

Tim: Sure.

Tian: There are so many different kinds of rights associated with different kinds of assets and we didn't want the viewer to have to even know about that.

Tim: Okay.

Tian: We blurred the lines between live, VOD, DVR as well as MVPD VOD.

Tim: Okay.

Tian: For everything On Demand, we live in an on demand lifestyle and the classic electronic programing guide is a really, really tight window into the content that's available, right?

Tim: Sure.

Tian: We wanted to bust that out. We presented a UI that presents the content in a dramatically different way, but I think it fosters more discovery of both content and channels as well. Then lastly, elegant and restrained, we just love TV movies and sports and so we wanted to convey that in the User Interface.

Tim: When you say that you blew up the EPG, essentially you're presenting everything to somebody to be able to watch, whether it's happening live or whether it's On Demand.

Tian: That's one dimension of that.

Tim: Okay.

Tian: The other dimension is if you think about, "Well, I'm in the mood for watching a movie." I shouldn't have to go figure out which channels have movies on right this second.

Tim: Right, right.

Tian: Instead we can just hoist that all into one collection that has all of the movies that are live right now and all the movies that are coming up soon. You'll find things that you never expected to see on channels you didn't even know existed.

Tim: Right, okay. From that standpoint the programmatic element is much more important than what channel that it's on.

Tian: Right.

Tim: Okay, fantastic. What are some of the technical challenges that you all faced as you went through this process?

Tian: The first technical challenge was in the delivery of live or acquisition of live feeds and delivery. The industry has changed a lot over the past few years. Different content providers now have investments in different vendors to deliver TV everywhere feeds.

Tim: Right.

Tian: For good reason. These vendors are doing a good job of delivering something end-to-end. They have automation, integration with broadcast automation as well as all the things you need to deliver TV Everywhere. The problem is that each content provider has worked with a different vendor.

Tim: Sure.

Tian: Now we had to integrate with a lot of these different vendors in order to provide feeds.

Tim: Authentication has been an issue in the past with multiple vendors as well, is that something that you guys have been able to deal with? The single sign-on, knowing if somebody has a local subscriber for their ISP that may block particular content, that kind of thing?

Tian: We support the TV Everywhere authentication.

Tim: Okay, so you're using the same authentication.

Tian: Right.

Tim: I know you're the technical guy not the business guy, but what are some of the business challenges that ... You hear horror stories about what happened with a large telco who tried to launch something recently. What are the business challenges that you all faced as you went into launch?

Tian: Business challenges?

Tim: In terms of just getting the word out there, from the marketing standpoint, getting people to be willing to actually try your technology.

Tian: Well, I think obviously we're doing a pretty radical redesign and rethinking of the experience so the first important step was to make sure we're both on the right thing. For that we ran a pretty large private data.

Tim: Okay.

Tian: I don't think Hulu's ever run a large private data of that magnitude before. That was the most important thing. Once we got to a good level of comfort with the product that we did have, we didn't necessarily want to make the biggest splash at launch.

Tim: Sure, okay.

Tian: We knew that we still had a few things that we wanted to work through. But most importantly we wanted to set the right expectation, but we do have a great product. It is worth paying $40 for.

Tim: Then one last question. You mentioned that you'd worked in a number of companies that did gaming and you're obviously into TV. Did that whole presenting gaming or gamification mindset work for you as you were working on doing a redesign on TV?

Tian: You definitely learn a lot of things about designing for a big screen UI.

Tim: Okay.

Tian: That's one dimension, but the area that's the most helpful is just understanding the mindset necessary to be effective at developing applications for living room devices. These devices are generally not that powerful.

Tim: Right.

Tian: They're actually more limited than your phone is.

Tim: Sure, sure.

Tian: In many, many circumstances.

Tim: And don't get upgraded nearly as frequently as your phone.

Tian: Exactly, exactly. They present very unique challenges and having the experience from the console platform perspective is very helpful there.

Tim: Okay, awesome. Thank you Tian. Again, this is Almost Live here at Streaming Media East 2017.

Tim:                      Welcome back to Streaming Media East 2017. Here we are at the Almost Live booth with Tian Lim from Hulu. Tian, tell us a little bit about yourself.

 

Tian:                     Hi, I'm Tian Lim. I'm the CTO of Hulu. Prior to that I was at Sony PlayStation. Prior to that Xbox 360. Prior to that Nintendo GameCube.

 

Tim:                      Oh wow, so a whole lot of gaming and a little bit of TV now. All right, awesome. For those who weren't able to attend your keynote today, just give me a quick synopsis of what went on.

 

Tian:                     What I did was I quickly told the story of how we brought live streaming to Hulu. We really wanted to redefine the television experience and that brought to light some really interesting challenges in the industry that we didn't predict. Spoiler alert, it was about the metadata.

 

Tim:                      Right, sure. Yeah, yeah.

 

Tian:                     I think the mechanics of live streaming are pretty well known at this point and time. But landscape's gotten a lot more complicated over the last few years because of TV Everywhere I feel. There's a lot more fragmentation as a consequence. The arc of that was these are the challenges we face and these are the things that we believe we need to see in order for the industry to grow and innovate faster.

 

Tim:                      What were some of the guiding principles that you had as you went through this whole model of launching Hulu's offering?

 

Tian:                     Right, we really wanted to just rethink what a TV experience could be.

 

Tim:                      Okay.

 

Tian:                     There were three main principles. The TV built around you, everything On Demand and elegant and restrained. TV built around you is all about personalizing the experience for you. We wanted to really hide the fact that this is a very complicated space.

 

Tim:                      Sure.

 

Tian:                     There are so many different kinds of rights associated with different kinds of assets and we didn't want the viewer to have to even know about that.

 

Tim:                      Okay.

 

Tian:                     We blurred the lines between live, VOD, DVR as well as MVPD VOD.

 

Tim:                      Okay.

 

Tian:                     For everything On Demand, we live in an on demand lifestyle and the classic electronic programing guide is a really, really tight window into the content that's available, right?

 

Tim:                      Sure.

 

Tian:                     We wanted to bust that out. We presented a UI that presents the content in a dramatically different way, but I think it fosters more discovery of both content and channels as well. Then lastly, elegant and restrained, we just love TV movies and sports and so we wanted to convey that in the User Interface.

 

Tim:                      When you say that you blew up the EPG, essentially you're presenting everything to somebody to be able to watch, whether it's happening live or whether it's On Demand.

 

Tian:                     That's one dimension of that.

 

Tim:                      Okay.

 

Tian:                     The other dimension is if you think about, "Well, I'm in the mood for watching a movie." I shouldn't have to go figure out which channels have movies on right this second.

 

Tim:                      Right, right.

 

Tian:                     Instead we can just hoist that all into one collection that has all of the movies that are live right now and all the movies that are coming up soon. You'll find things that you never expected to see on channels you didn't even know existed.

 

Tim:                      Right, okay. From that standpoint the programmatic element is much more important than what channel that it's on.

 

Tian:                     Right.

 

Tim:                      Okay, fantastic. What are some of the technical challenges that you all faced as you went through this process?

 

Tian:                     The first technical challenge was in the delivery of live or acquisition of live feeds and delivery. The industry has changed a lot over the past few years. Different content providers now have investments in different vendors to deliver TV everywhere feeds.

 

Tim:                      Right.

 

Tian:                     For good reason. These vendors are doing a good job of delivering something end-to-end. They have automation, integration with broadcast automation as well as all the things you need to deliver TV Everywhere. The problem is that each content provider has worked with a different vendor.

 

Tim:                      Sure.

 

Tian:                     Now we had to integrate with a lot of these different vendors in order to provide feeds.

 

Tim:                      Authentication has been an issue in the past with multiple vendors as well, is that something that you guys have been able to deal with? The single sign-on, knowing if somebody has a local subscriber for their ISP that may block particular content, that kind of thing?

 

Tian:                     We support the TV Everywhere authentication.

 

Tim:                      Okay, so you're using the same authentication.

 

Tian:                     Right.

 

Tim:                      I know you're the technical guy not the business guy, but what are some of the business challenges that ... You hear horror stories about what happened with a large telco who tried to launch something recently. What are the business challenges that you all faced as you went into launch?

 

Tian:                     Business challenges?

 

Tim:                      In terms of just getting the word out there, from the marketing standpoint, getting people to be willing to actually try your technology.

 

Tian:                     Well, I think obviously we're doing a pretty radical redesign and rethinking of the experience so the first important step was to make sure we're both on the right thing. For that we ran a pretty large private data.

 

Tim:                      Okay.

 

Tian:                     I don't think Hulu's ever run a large private data of that magnitude before. That was the most important thing. Once we got to a good level of comfort with the product that we did have, we didn't necessarily want to make the biggest splash at launch.

 

Tim:                      Sure, okay.

 

Tian:                     We knew that we still had a few things that we wanted to work through. But most importantly we wanted to set the right expectation, but we do have a great product. It is worth paying $40 for.

 

Tim:                      Then one last question. You mentioned that you'd worked in a number of companies that did gaming and you're obviously into TV. Did that whole presenting gaming or gamification mindset work for you as you were working on doing a redesign on TV?

 

Tian:                     You definitely learn a lot of things about designing for a big screen UI.

 

Tim:                      Okay.

 

Tian:                     That's one dimension, but the area that's the most helpful is just understanding the mindset necessary to be effective at developing applications for living room devices. These devices are generally not that powerful.

 

Tim:                      Right.

 

Tian:                     They're actually more limited than your phone is.

 

Tim:                      Sure, sure.

 

Tian:                     In many, many circumstances.

 

Tim:                      And don't get upgraded nearly as frequently as your phone.

 

Tian:                     Exactly, exactly. They present very unique challenges and having the experience from the console platform perspective is very helpful there.

 

Tim:                      Okay, awesome. Thank you Tian. Again, this is Almost Live here at Streaming Media East 2017.

 

Streaming Covers
Free
for qualified subscribers
Subscribe Now Current Issue Past Issues
Related Articles

SME '17: Hulu Explains Challenges of Merging Live TV and SVOD

Blending live television and video-on-demand for millions of viewers is anything but simple, especially when each content provider has its own way of storing information. Here's how Hulu's team solved multiple crises.