I'm now back from Digital Hollywood and I've had an opportunity to give Hulu 1.0 a spin as part of its private beta. I've also looked the Hulu offering at AOL which is not yet comparable (less content, fewer features) to the one at Hulu.com. So I think that for now using Hulu through the private beta is the only way to get the full 1.0 experience.
My initial reactions are positive and I give Hulu 1.0 a solid B+, with many of the fundamentals well done, but with certain features needing improvement, as to be expected from a beta launch. All in all, considering the short development window in which Hulu was created, the Hulu team deserves much credit.
Hulu 1.0 should more than silence those who snarkily pre-labeled it "Clown Co" and misunderstood it to be a "YouTube killer", which it is not. Hulu has not embarrassed its primary investors (and content providers) NBC and News Corp in any way, and in fact, has set the stage for taking back control of how its full-length content and clips are distributed online. This was of course the investors' main motivation - creating a legitimate platform for them to control their online destiny and capture the lion's share of the economics.
Once clicking into a clip or full length video, the video player experience was excellent. Not only is the player consistent for all videos, but the quality was as well. I never experienced any delays, re-buffering, pixelation, audio/video out of synch or other typical video issues. In full screen mode there was a little degradation, but was certainly above the acceptable-quality bar.
The biggest knock on the content is its inconsistency. For example, click on "24" and you can choose from 3 episodes from Season 1 and one from Season 6. Battlestar Galactica gives all of Season 1, but nothing else. Same for a classic like The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Huh? All of this makes it confusing for the user to know what to expect. If all this is due to rights or other limitations, it would be good for Hulu to signal or explain this somehow.
Of course, the bigger question is whether this limited amount of advertising is sufficient to make Hulu's economic model work, especially if sometime down the road, online consumption cannibalizes on-air consumption.
Yet for now the create a clip capability is buried in the "Share" feature, which seemingly only allows the custom clip to be emailed. And pinning down your desired start and stop points is very tough. Since custom clips are the only UGC-like opportunity in Hulu, these should be given more prominence. Ideas could include showcasing a users' gallery of favorites, allowing them to be saved to playlists, syndicating them to partners' sites and allowing them to be mashed up.
UPDATE: Reed Price, MSN Entertainment's Editor-in-Chief emailed me to remind me that MSN (an initial Hulu distribution partner) has already rolled out a relatively extensive integration of Hulu video. He provided a number of links including these 4: