I’m a bit of a content junky and a big supporter of online streaming content. I see it as a path to full on IPTV and I enjoy having a ton of content on demand at all times. The freedom to watch what you want, when you want is great.
This is the whole reason I was happy when I received my Hulu Plus invite a little over two weeks ago. Getting a chance to try out the paid service was something I was hoping for. I had hammered it a bit on earlier episodes of Entertainment 2.0 but wanted to give it a shot and see if Hulu could get it right.
After first signing up, I found the extra content that you won’t see without a Plus subscription. This mainly includes more TV seasons and the ability to access full current seasons as opposed to the standard five episodes. You’ll also get access to more movie content.
The extra content you do get access to is standard Hulu fare. Older shows, documentaries and older movies. Don’t think you’re going to get earlier access to current movies or shows. That’s not what Hulu is about. There is a significant jump in the amount of access you have when your Plus subscription is activated but figure that other than more movies, you’re just getting a deeper selection of the same TV you see with the standard selection. Not a whole lot of “new” content.
Using the Service
In addition to the extra content, Hulu Plus also gets you access to the content through the use of either an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad. You can also access the content through certain internet connected HDTVs, Blu-ray players and the Playstation 3. Eventually more devices will be added and even the Xbox 360 will jump into the mix. While I don’t have access to any of the home devices, I was able to get Hulu Plus up and running on my iPod Touch. On such a small screen (and over wi-fi) the content looks good. It’s not HD of course but at that size, it doesn’t really matter. I never ran into buffering issues or pauses of any kind. As well, little to no pixelization was observed. Overall I was happy with the stream ability and hopefully it holds up over 3G.
Navigation is really the tricky part. The Hulu app for the iPod just doesn’t have the best navigation in the world. Shows are rather easy as they’re alphabetical and there’s a letter selection bar on the side. It’s really the sheer number of shows that makes it the most difficult. Movies is where the interface really falls flat. All alphabetical again but no letter selection bar. This makes for a lot of scrolling. You can solve this problem by searching for the movie you want to view but you’d better know it’s already there. So far, the easiest way to navigate the application is to use the Hulu website to add content to your queue and then use that inside the app.
The real rub with these other devices is that Hulu has hobbled them by not allowing the same content on all of them. Due to licensing issues, they can only provide certain content in certain places. You’re covered when viewing through the website but your mobile just isn’t going to get you the same stuff. While you can’t completely blame Hulu for this, (studios are more than likely holding out due to not wanting to cannibalize their network offerings) it would have been nice if they could have banged out the arrangements before launching the preview. When you start something on the PC, it would be nice to know you’d be able to move out of the house and keep going, but keep dreaming. Hopefully Hulu can straighten out all of this licensing nonsense before they officially launch.
I give kudos to Hulu for attempting to push forward with it’s streaming plans. It’s sorely needed as Netflix is the only true competition out there. That said, it’s simply not ready to be a pay service. Besides the lack of ubiquitous content, Hulu has also started running two ads during every break instead of just one. This happens whether you’re on a standard or a Plus subscription. When you add in the fact that you won’t be able to watch the latest episode of a show until a few days after everyone else, it’s simply not worth the $9.99 a month it’s going to run you. I feel like I’m better off looking for the older television series on DVD or Blu-ray. It’ll be cheaper in the long run. As for the movies? I’ve been able to find many of the documentaries online for free (legally) and the catalog titles again, can be owned on DVD or Blu-ray and end up being cheaper over time.
As of now, Netflix is still king. You’ll wait longer to get the television content but there is much more selection and for $8.99 a month you won’t have to watch commercials.