August 30, 2010
Hulu Plus Review
The minute I heard about Hulu Plus, I signed up for an invite, super stoked at the potential of the idea. To begin with, I’m not a cable subscriber. I get over-the-air channels with an antenna, and I use the heck out of my Netflix subscription, as well as Amazon streaming and, for super new releases, my Xbox 360‘s built in Zune rentals. On top of that though, the idea of having all my favorite shows from Hulu streaming to not only my Mac and PC, but also to my Xbox 360 and iPad excited the heck out of me. What I pictured was Hulu, but on all my devices, with a cost of around 10 bucks a month, and no ads. What we got with Hulu Plus though, varies from that dream of mine pretty greatly. Continue reading for how and why.
First of all, let’s talk about the available devices. Let me preface with the fact that I’m relatively happy about the devices NBC is talking about launching Hulu Plus for. Obviously, once you pay your $9.99 a month, you get Hulu Plus anywhere you can log in to Hulu or download a Hulu app. That though, is the problem. With limited browser compatibility, through pursposeful actions taken by NBC, you can literally only watch on the devices they let you watch on. While this is fine if I want to watch on my Xbox, computer, or iPad, it’s not so great if I wanted to watch on my mobile phone. As of this writing, no Hulu app exists for a mobile phone. This means that while my Android phone can run any other site on the internet, flash sites included, I can’t watch Hulu, even though I’m paying a monthly subscription fee to be able to access that content. My opinion would be that once you sign up for a subscription, Hulu.com should be unlocked and able to operate on anything that can run it as long as you’re signed in. Aside from this limitation, I do like the devices they’ve brought the service too. I think it works really well on the iPad and computer, and can’t wait for them to release the Xbox 360 side.
One place I do think they nailed it was the price point. At $9.99 a month, it comes in just over my Netflix subscription, but honestly, I’d pay more for the Netflix monthly if I had to. I think under ten bucks is pretty reasonable for any significant amount of streaming content. (Don’t worry, we’ll get in to the amount of content soon…) Here though, is where it begins to get kind of sticky, because we have to start distinguishing between what would be a reasonable price for certain content, and what would be reasonable for other content, and if we would even want the content associate with each. Let me go a little further…
With Hulu Plus, you pay $9.99 a month, and you get unlimited access to full seasons of full series’. For example, if you love Family Guy, Hulu Plus is pretty cool because you literally get access to every episode ever, streaming, whenever you want it. One might then go on to say, “Okay that’s cool, but I really like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia! Let’s watch that!” Here is where Hulu Plus fails. While Hulu.com has episodes of It’s Always Sunny on a regular basis, Hulu Plus has none. Same goes for V. Why the discrepancy? I can only assume it’s a licensing issue, as those are shows that are included on Hulu.com, but are not NBC property. They absolutely need to fix this though, if for no other reason than…
Ads. Here’s where Hulu Plus really starts to lose me. I imagined Hulu Plus as maybe the last 5 episodes of each show that it included, but since I’m paying a monthly fee, no ads. What they’ve done is added more content in the form of past seasons, and continued to push ads. The problem is, I don’t want to watch every episode of Family Guy ever. And if I did, it would likely only be once. Maybe twice. Maybe. But if I want to watch it that much, I’ll get the DVD’s. I want Hulu Plus as a replacement for the network shows I used to watch on cable, not as a streaming DVD collection. I don’t like enough of these shows to watch them that much, but because NBC wanted to sell ads, they included a ton of content I don’t need (A la cable industry) and charged for it on top. In my professional opinion, this might kill the service. Cable’s downfall is that you are forced to pay for content you don’t want, and Hulu Plus continues in that fashion, whether we’re paying in dollars per month, or in time spent watching ads.
To wrap up, if you really love a few NBC shows to the point that you’ll watch them over and over again, or want access to some older seasons of vintage shows, you may want to look into Hulu. But the fact is people don’t need another $10 per month subscription to something they don’t use, especially when in some cases, the free version on the internet has more content! And for most people, Hulu Plus just doesn’t have the content they want in the places they want it to make it worth the money.