TV just got a whole lot more social... at least, that's what Hulu hopes in its latest blog. Friday the company announced that it's partnered with Facebook to give users a more personal experience when accessing their favorite TV shows on the video streaming site. In turn, this new expanded socialization feature could actually bring in more paying customers to Hulu's "Plus" subscription-based scheme thanks to sharing bits of premium content on the popular social website, and a free month of the premium Hulu content.
In one sense, Hulu is seemingly taking on Google's YouTube, allowing users to comment on a specific moment in a full TV episode, and then share it on Facebook. This eliminates the need to hunt down a similar clip on YouTube which at times can be of poor quality or not available at all. As an example, I made a comment on one of my favorite X-Files episodes and then shared it on Facebook here. It was really rather simple: just hunt down the specific spot you want to share, type in the comment, and hit the button. It immediately appears on your Facebook wall, and can even be watched without a Hulu Plus subcription.
"When you comment on a Hulu video, that exact moment will appear on Facebook so your friends can jump in and react right away," Hulu project manager Betina Chan-Martin explains. "And since friends can respond to your comments, you can have those water cooler conversations online at any time. We’ve been using this feature in test mode here at Hulu HQ for a bit…and we are officially addicted. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do."
This new clip comment feature is the "interact" aspect of Hulu's four-pronged attack to gain more users. The second aspect, "connect," now means that Facebook and Hulu are somewhat intertwined thanks to financial backing by Coors Light and Microsoft's Bing. Hulu users can create a new account using their Facebook credentials, or merge their existing account with the social website. Those who actually merge the two accounts together – to "go social" – will receive a month of Hulu Plus for free. Not a bad deal for letting Facebook creep ever so more into your external Facebook life.
"Personalize," Hulu's third prong of attack, means that Hulu users will have a custom-tailored homepage where they can see their friends’ favorite shows, and start conversations with anybody who follows the same shows. There's also "discover," the fourth prong, where users can introduce shows to friends lurking on Facebook while discovering new favorites with their help – this really isn't a prong but an obvious side effect of sharing any kind of video on Facebook whether it's on Hulu or YouTube, honestly.
Unfortunately, shortly after Hulu launched the new social aspect, the company had to disable it. According to VP of Platform Technology Richard Tom, a technical issue began affecting a limited number of users who connected to Hulu through Facebook.
"When we launched our Facebook Connect feature early this morning, we discovered that a small number of users weren’t seeing their own Hulu account information upon login," he explained. "We’re still drilling down on the precise nature of the issue, but we know that it was a coding and configuration error on Hulu’s side, and not the result of hacking, or other third party actions, or a vulnerability in Facebook Connect. We’ve been able to confirm approximately 50 affected users whose profile data, including email addresses, could have been accessed. But no one gained access to Hulu systems or highly sensitive user information such as passwords or credit card numbers."
Tom said that Hulu disabled all the connection points to Facebook Connect on Hulu, and is now forcing users to login directly through Hulu's website. "We are also taking the precautionary measure of resetting privacy settings to the most restrictive settings for anyone who logged into their Hulu account through Facebook during the affected period," he added. "Once we are certain that the issue has been fully addressed, we will re-launch our Facebook Connect program."
Despite the current technical issue, Hulu does seem to have something going with the Facebook partnership. Whether this keeps Hulu afloat remains to be seen, but the whole caption-sharing aspect could provoke Hulu users to shell out the extra $7.99 per month for the "Plus" service. The whole customizable homepage aspect as down that the time of this writing – hopefully this aspect will be as great as it sounds whenever Hulu gets its security act together and relaunches the Facebook features again. So far there's no indication of when the Facebook Connect aspect will be restored, so stay tuned.