As we told you last week, HitBliss is a new streaming video service that turns ad-supported viewing on its head. Unlike Hulu’s TV-style ads, all the ad viewing on HitBliss is done up front to earn credits, which you in turn trade for (select) video rentals. After downloading the app, you fill out your demographic information and can instantly start viewing targeted commercials, each of which deposits credits into your account. Lest you think that you’ll generate a year’s worth of credits as you sleep, though, you’re required to push the feeder bar at random intervals (which decrease in frequency as you prove that you’re actually paying attention), and the maximum credit you can hold at any one time is $5.
$5 doesn’t sound like much, but they also don’t ask a heck of a lot of you to earn it. It took me over 10 minutes starting from scratch to earn enough credit to watch Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1, but when it came time for Part 2, I picked up the $3.99 rental fee a little faster, thanks to hitting the bar quickly each time.
Video quality on the service is limited at this time to well-compressed 480p streams, but it seems like a small team was cranking a lot of movies in a hurry, because Willy Wonka‘s audio was a little wonky, and I got the left and right channels with no center dialog on my rental. I alerted them, and the title was pulled by the next morning. Everything else I experienced stood up to the best of other standard-def, stereo-only streaming services.
The interface is really slick, a cool blue to Netflix’s harsh red, and it’s easy to understand and use. Honestly, the biggest issue I had was finding the (admittedly bright green) search button — a small increase in size could make all the difference in this, admittedly, still beta software.
HitBliss isn’t only about movies; they also carry next-day TV shows, and I think that might be one of the strongest future features of the service. Most cable shows are not available on Hulu or on their network websites the day after airing, but many of them can be on HitBliss. With cord cutters becoming an increasingly growing segment of media consumers that will probably remain in the double digits once all the economy crises settle out, this could turn out to be a pretty huge deal. And the ability to send hyper-focused advertising, up front, so your experience isn’t constantly interrupted by ads for things you don’t want or care about is pretty cool (Hulu, are you listening?).
The thing that might mystify the layman is the inconsistent nature of the offerings that can be rented with these ad-sponsored credits. A title like The Master, which came out last month on home video, is available as a redeemable rental, but Dark Shadows, which has been on video for six months, is only rentable for real money via credit card. While these distinctions are definitely drawn along studio lines (WB and Universal), most people probably aren’t going to get that distinction, and the ability to at least pay partially with HitBliss credit would make me a lot more likely to rent there. In my experience, there’s definitely a psychological benefit to points over pesos, especially given how HitBliss is using ads as a carrot rather than a stick, and that could potentially be used to keep both studios and end users happy in the future.
HitBliss is off to a great start, though; they have a solid concept, slick execution, and it’s as easy to use as Netflix, despite the extra steps. Hulu beware, because you’re anything but Blissful, and if this Hits, you might just be out of the park.
You can sign up for the HitBliss Beta by visiting the company’s website.