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Hulu Desktop's Programming Trojan Horse

As is increasingly becoming a habit, I was doing my daily check of Hulu on Friday night for stuff I might have missed on broadcast TV. Only this time, I did it through Hulu's Desktop app, instead of going straight to Hulu.com. It was then I discovered an ingenious way that the desktop app sucks you in -- by automatically streaming a program of Hulu's choice when you log on.

Now, in the screen grab here at right, you'll see that the program du Jour is Worldwide Wrestling Federation. Not my cup of tea. But the other night, the automatically streamed show was A&E's "Intervention", and before I knew it, I was sucked so deeply into the saga of Howard (who could drink Jack Daniel's like nobody's business) and Audrey (a heroin addict), that it was, well, addicting.

When visitors come to Hulu through the Web site, they get a more static opening experience, a huge, clickable picture of a show the site is featuring (below).

When I see how different these two approaches to user experience are, it makes me wonder if the Hulu Desktop automatic streaming approach is in test there, for potential rolling out to the home page. (Hmmm. Maybe bandwidth issues would make this impossible.) Still, it's a great way to lure viewers into Hulu and into particular programming. If the programmers whose shows are featured aren't paying for this exposure, they should be.

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