Android 2.2, Hulu Sadly Still Don’t Mix

Over the weekend I was pleased as punch when my EVO informed me that the upgrade to the latest Android OS–Android 2.2, also known by the wannabe-hip nickname Froyo–was available for the handset. I’ve been eager for the upgrade, mostly because of reports that Android 2.2 would allow smartphones to play Flash videos, the format of videos on Hulu. One more thing the EVO will do that the iPhone can’t, I cackled to myself.

Wah-wuh. I’d momentarily forgotten that Hulu’s inability to be played on phones is due mostly to content owners’ decision to make them unavailable on the mobile platform. My EVO still has full Flash capability, an improvement from the so-called “Flash Lite” support of earlier Android incarnations (not to mention Apple’s non-support of the format). But it was still a bummer not to be able to rewatch the Glee finale in bed during a bout of insomnia. And so for me, an enthusiastic mobile video and mobile Internet consumer, the new Android is about as much an improvement as the Malibu Stacy doll on The Simpsons getting a new hat.

It’s a sad example of marketers and branding experts failing to leverage technology and please their customers. I’m sure they know just how voraciously consumers hunger for mobile video. Remember Justin wrote recently that, according to ABI Research, revenue from mobile video will jump to more than $2 billion in 2013, up almost 17-fold from just $121 million expected this year. People are willing to pay a lot for premium TV video shown by Hulu on their mobiles. And when I say “pay,” I’m not talking the most literal definition of fee-for-each-viewing, at which admittedly most consumers would balk.

The vast majority of viewers don’t mind sitting through revenue-generating ads while watching their favorite shows, i.e. the Hulu business model. Also, premium video can be bundled as part of a carrier’s services–I watched live World Cup games on ESPN’s mobile channel, for example–and content owners can receive a cut. Indeed, these business models are alive and thriving, even if they’re still in infancy. Besides World Cup matches, many networks allow a few of their shows to be available as full episodes on carriers’ video services. Since television content owners already have sources of revenue–ads on TV broadcasts and online offerings–they should be willing to take chances with monetizing mobile video, and offer full episodes of all their popular shows.

To be sure, I can understand that networks and production companies–and their legions of marketers and branding experts–want to be able to measure firm ROI before committing to mobile broadcasts. But they won’t get accurate results until they start allowing the same content they put over the air and online–on Hulu and on networks’ own sites–to be played on mobiles. Meanwhile, an Android 2.2 consolation prize is the new flashlight app on my EVO, which lets me use its camera flash (that’s flash with a lowercase “f”) as a personal floodlight. At least it’s better than a new doll hat.