Enough Re-Buffering, Hulu!

I’m sure it’s happened to you many times.  You’re enjoying a TV show or movie via Hulu.com, the show starts to pick up, an important plot point is about to be revealed when BOOM! everything stops all of sudden and you’re torn out of the moment because, alas, your video has to re-buffer itself to continue.

Perhaps that’s a bit of an over-dramatization, but you understand what I’m getting at.  Hulu just does not seem to be able to hold a buffer to save it’s life.  And after about the hundredth time of having one of my videos freeze up on me, I finally decided to inquire into why this is always a problem.  At first I figured it must just be my computer not being able to work fast enough with streaming media… but I soon realized it wasn’t that at all.  It all comes down to Hulu’s buffer quota.  You pause your video and your buffer begins to fill to full capacity, and then you play your video — this is the way it’s supposed to be done.  But once again, you’re in the middle of your program and suddenly the video glitches and you know all too well what’s coming next — and like clockwork, the video begins to stutter and stop until you’re forced to pause once again for the buffer to refill.

Why can’t it just buffer once and be done with it?  Well, as I found out, the answer is right on Hulu’s technical support page.  Scroll down a bit and you’ll come across this line:

“The buffer progress bar allows you to see how much of a video has been stored, and when the bars reach ‘full,’ about five minutes of the video have been loaded. (Due to legal reasons, Hulu currently does not buffer more than a small portion of a video at a given time.)”

Exactly what kind of legal reason Hulu is referring to it never really says (or at least I couldn’t find it — perhaps you know?) but it does raise further questions about the online streaming site.  The biggest one that comes to mind is whether online streaming sites can ever really replace the TV set when the viewer is forced to pause every five minutes to allow it to re-buffer.

Now, I’ve been a Hulu member since way back when it was still beta testing and I can at least say that streaming is now far more smoother and reliable than it was then, but still the questions remain.

What do you think?  Are there more questions to be raised because of these “legal reasons” — are there any solutions?