Props to Hulu on Good PR

From the “Availability Notes” that appeared when I checked Hulu for new episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia…”
Apparently, they took down many of the episodes (they had a few seasons of the show up in entirety) all at once without warning.
The tone I get from this, is that Hulu may even be thinking along the lines of posting ‘expiration dates” for the content… That would be smart. It would be another way to browse (browse by what’s about to expire), and it would give Hulu users more of a sense that Hulu is almost like their free, ad-supported DVR, a good place for Hulu to be in people’s minds, I think.  The message is an apology from Hulu… All and all, I say, good going, Hulu.  You guy’s are rockin’ it!

Availability Notes:
Hulu can provide five episodes of this series at a time. We’ll add a new episode each week as we take down an older one, following the same schedule as the official site.  

Customer trust is hard won, easily lost. On January 9, we removed nearly 3 seasons of full episodes of ”It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” We did this at the request of the content owner. Despite Hulu’s opinion and position on such content removals (which we share liberally with all of our content partners), these things do happen and will continue to happen on the Hulu service with regards to some television series. As power users of Hulu have seen, we’ve added a large amount of content to the library each month, and every once in a while we are required to remove some content as well. 

This note, however, is not about the fact that episodes of ”It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” were taken down. Rather, this note is to communicate to our users that we screwed up royally with regards to _how_ we handled this specific content removal and to apologize for our lack of strong execution. We gave effectively no notice to our users that these ”Sunny” episodes would be coming off the service. We handled this in precisely the opposite way that we should have. We believe that our users deserve the decency of a reasonable warning before content is taken down from the Hulu service. Please accept our apologies.

Given the very reasonable user feedback that we have received on this topic (we read every twitter, email and post), we have just re-posted all of the episodes that we had previously removed. I’d like to point out to our users that the content owner in this case – FX Networks – was very quick to say yes to our request to give users reasonable advance notice here, despite the fact that it was the Hulu team that dropped the ball. We have re-posted all of the episodes in the interest of giving people advance notice before the episodes will be taken down two weeks from today. The episodes will be taken down on January 25, 2009. Unfortunately we do not have the permission to keep the specific episodes up on Hulu beyond that. We hope that the additional two weeks of availability will help to address some of the frustration that was felt over the past few days.

The team at Hulu is doing our best to make lemonade out of lemons on this one, but it’s not easy given how poorly we executed here. Please know that we will do our best to learn from this mistake such that the Hulu user experience benefits in other ways down the road.

Sincerely,

Jason Kilar, CEO, Hulu