Hulu, the online video site run by aliens who want to eat your brain, just extended its influence over the world by making a deal to sell Disney a 30% share in the service. Disney will join NBC and FOX in putting full length episodes of ABC TV series on the service, and will inject capital on parity with NBC and News Corp. (which owns FOX). This leaves CBS as the only major network not available on Hulu.
According to Wired, the list of ABC shows coming soon to Hulu include Jimmy Kimmel Live, Lost, Desperate Housewives, Scrubs, Ugly Betty, and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.
There's one big catch, however. According to the Wired article, Disney will be putting only selected episodes on Hulu. Most TV series on Hulu offer a 'rolling selection' of the current season of a show (generally the most recent five or six episodes, any when a new one hits the service, an old one is removed). The implication of the Wired article suggest that the ABC series shows will be more scattered, more of an attempt to attract viewers to ABC.com. To quote Wired, "The first taste may be at Hulu, but the full meal will still be on Disney-controlled real estate." So no matter how faithfully you log into Hulu, you might not be able to catch an entire season of a favorite show.
That might not be a big deal now; after all, having to point your browser to http://abc.go.com/ rather than http://hulu.com isn't all that inconvenient. But as these online TV services start to transition to the living room the situation may become more significant. For instance, if Hulu was made available on Tivo or the Roku media player, you'd want to watch all of a series on Hulu, not have to switch between the TV for the Hulu episodes, and the PC for the abc.com episodes.
We'll have to see how that develops, but so far this deal seems good for the consumer. More shows available at a particular destination means more convenience. Of course the flip side of that is, do we want one site controlling all our content? At what point do people start pointing at Hulu and whispering "monopoly"? Do we really want aliens controlling what we watch?