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5/14/2010
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Hulu Sticking With Flash

Despite Steve Jobs' bashing of Adobe Flash, leading online video provider Hulu will continue using it, saying the HTML5 that Apple champions doesn't meet its customers' needs.

Hulu, a major provider of online video from Hollywood studios, is sticking with Adobe Flash for now, saying Apple-backed HTML5 lacks the technology needed for streaming licensed content.

Because of Hulu's prominence in online video, the site's use of technology is seen as an independent indicator of whether Apple will be successful in its public battle against Adobe over the future of Flash in streaming online video. Apple is pushing HTML5 as a better alternative, saying Flash is too buggy and performs poorly on mobile devices, such as the company's iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. None of the popular devices support Flash.

But in announcing the release of a new player, Hulu VP Eugene Wei said Thursday in the company's blog that the company stuck with the more mature Flash.

"When it comes to technology, our only guiding principle is to best serve the needs of all of our key customers: our viewers, our content partners who license programs to us, our advertisers, and each other," Wei said. "We continue to monitor developments on HTML5, but as of now it doesn’t yet meet all of our customers’ needs."

For Hulu, Flash remains a better choice for a variety of reasons. The technology is better for securing content against copyright infringement, for reporting to advertisers, for rendering video and for "dozens of other things that aren't necessarily visible to the end user."

"Not all video sites have these needs, but for our business these are all important and often contractual requirements," Wei said.

However, Hulu wasn't closing the door on HTML5, but said the standard and related technologies would be evaluated in the future, based on how they meet the site's needs.

"Technology is a fast-moving space and we’re constantly evaluating which tools will best allow us to fulfill our mission for as many of our customers as possible," Wei said.

In March, Web metrics firm ComScore ranked Hulu second among online video providers in terms of number of videos viewed by Internet users. Google, which owns YouTube, is number one with a 41.8% market share, far greater than Hulu's 3.4%.

However, while YouTube's mostly user-created content varies dramatically in quality, Hulu's is high quality, licensed video produced by Hollywood, which makes the content attractive to advertisers.

Overall, 180 million U.S. Internet users watched 31.2 billion online videos in March, according to ComScore. With such demand for video, the stakes are high for companies trying to steer the industry toward one technology or another for showing content not just on home computers, but on Internet-enabled TVs and the growing number of video-capable mobile devices.

While Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs leads the charge for HTML5, Adobe is aggressively defending its technology. On Thursday, Adobe presented full page ads in 15 national and international newspapers, including The Financial Times, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, defending Flash and saying no company should be able to dictate the technology used to create and watch video.

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