In announcing a series of updates to its service today, Hulu said it's sticking with Flash to power video in its new media player because HTML5 -- the alternative pushed by Apple -- isn't yet ready for prime time.
"We continue to monitor developments on HTML5, but as of now it doesn't yet meet all of our customers' needs," wrote Eugene Wei, Hulu's vice president of product, in a blog post Thursday. He explained that in addition to simply streaming video, its updated media player must ensure security of content, handle ad reporting, and determine what bitrate to stream at for highest visual quality, among other things.
"That's not to say these features won't be added to HTML5 in the future (or be easier to implement). 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," he added.
This suggests Hulu videos will not appear on the iPad anytime soon, since the Apple tablet does not support Flash. Apple CEO Steve Jobs recently laid out his reasons for banning the popular Adobe plug-in on grounds tied to Flash's reliability, performance and security -- the opposite of the case Wei made for it today.
Other video content providers including CBS and Brightcove, however, have embraced HTML5, giving them early entree to the iPad.
In addition to the new version of its player, which offers a 25% larger screen and optimizes the bitrate and resolution of streaming video according to a user's bandwidth, Hulu also introduced an ad customization feature called Ad Tailor. It allows users to indicate whether an ad is "relevant" to them in the upper right corner of each video ad, replacing the "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" buttons on Hulu ads.
"The new wording is deliberate, since the thumbs up and down iconology might suggest that we were interested primarily in your subjective opinion of the ad creative when what's more critical for us is understanding whether the product or service being shown is relevant to you," wrote Wei. "We can't alter our advertisers' creative, but we can control which ads we show you."
To further hone ad targeting, Hulu said it will also begin serving up brief surveys during videos in place of ads asking about ad-related interests. Answering any single question will allow viewers to return to a video, while answering multiple questions will earn some ad-free viewing. Users can also skip the survey and just watch the ad.
A sample survey shown in the Hulu blog post asks viewers about how interested they are in learning about new cars and trucks. The company promises that all responses will be kept confidential. "The more efficiently we can match ads up with users, the more everyone benefits. Users see more relevant ads, and advertisers reach a more targeted and receptive audience," Wei stated.
As part of the site's revamp, Hulu has also upgraded its recommendations service, showing suggested content in the masthead at the top of the home page and the main pages for movies and TV. A new My Videos section on each of the three home pages also allows signed-in Hulu users to look at their queue, subscriptions and viewing history without leaving the page.