Hulu Plus Reviewed: Is It Worth Your Money?

Staci D. Kramer at mocoNews tested Hulu Plus, the forthcoming “pay us $10 a month to watch commercials” subscription offering from Hulu, and reports that it’s okay-to-disappointing depending on your needs: “Given that I’m a subscription addict, I was fairly sure I’d wind up keeping it after my free review month. One week in, not so much.”

Kramer says that there’s a ton of content available and the actual user experience was fine, for the most part. What’s problematic are the weird gaps in content, making it a less-than-comprehensive subscription service. Only the most recent seasons of Lost and 24 are available, for example, although you can watch every episode of Heroes (if your superpower is surviving crushing boredom). There’s no programming from CBS, HBO, or Showtime, and “none of the quirky USA shows.”

She notes that if you want movies, the $9/month Netflix subscription is probably a better choice.

Of course, the really offensive aspect of Hulu Plus for many–well, okay, for me at least–is the presence of ads. Kramer acknowledges that Hulu is following the cable model in this regard, but she writes that somehow it just feels wrong in this format, partly because of the difference in how we consume online streaming content:

When you are paying, the annoyance level goes up exponentially. I rarely watch movies on AMC because of the commercial interruptions and after one movie on Hulu, I’m close to the same policy. Some possibilities: offer an ad-free version for a few more bucks; include X number of ad-free hours a month; limit the extra ads when a user moves around in the show—it feels like a punishment sometimes; make the software sensitive enough enough to know when someone just saw an ad and is rebooting a show.

Her conclusion: $10 isn’t bad “if you get a few hours of entertainment” every month, especially when compared to something like iTunes TV and movie prices, but for now the content offerings are probably too paltry for some viewers.

In a follow-up post, she says Hulu’s CEO admits that an ad-free subscription service (at a higher price) is possible, but only “theoretical” at this point.

“One Week Of Hulu Plus: Glee-Full But Not Giddy “ [mocoNews]
“Hulu’s Kilar: Ad-Free Hulu Plus Option Is ‘Theoretical’” [mocoNews]

Comments

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  1. fjordtjie says:

    if ads bother you, you must really hate cable.

    cable: like network television, with the same amount of commercials and a few more cursewords!

    • aybara says:

      I have a Tivo, commercials are totally optional.

      Here’s a thought, make more creative commercials. I will stop and watch many a movie trailer. Personally, I find the new Old Spice commercials hilarious and well done. So there are some commercials I will actually REWIND to watch because they are interesting or entertaining.

      • trentblase says:

        I’m on a horse.

      • TouchMyMonkey says:

        I have a DVR too. It makes TV much more enjoyable, as long as what you’re watching is either on the disk or in the buffer. Note to MSNBC – I really like watching Countdown, but when you bring Keith back for 30 seconds to talk about what the next segment is about, then go back to commercials for several more minutes before bringing the show back, that pisses me off.

        Oh, and Roku Newscaster rocks – so far. I wonder how long that’s going to last before (1) I have to pay a subscription fee to watch commercial-free, or (2) MSNBC forces Roku to take their content offline.

    • JohnDeere says:

      hulu is different from cable. i cant channel surf during commercials on hulu.

      • Griking says:

        No but you can check your email, the news or the sports scores by opening another tab in your browser.

        • JohnDeere says:

          its more of a hassle. i have to dig out my wireless mouse and keyboard, instead of just pushing a couple buttons on a remote.

    • TouchMyMonkey says:

      I do really hate cable, for that reason. I especially hate when they put a half-hour show into a 35 or 40 minute time slot so they can show you more shitty advertising. Those people with the overpriced gold coins, flimsy kitchen gadgets, reverse mortgages, dangerous exercise equipment, and buggy speed-up-your-crappy-pc software must have deeper pockets than McDonald’s when it comes to ruining your TV viewing experience. If it weren’t for certain foreign language channels that we simply can’t do without, I’d have sent our satellite provider (who I won’t name because they actually do good work) packing long ago.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        What network puts a half hour show into a 35 or 40 minute timeslot? I’ve never seen that happen, and I’m sure most networks don’t do that because then it would have an uneven block of television. Even hour long shows clock in at about 43 to 45 minutes when commercials are factored.

        • DanRydell says:

          NBC has done it a few times I think, but they actually made the shows longer. They didn’t increase the ratio of commercial to show.

    • TDogg says:

      The difference between ads on basic cable vs ads on hulu premium is that I’m paying for both content and a huge expensive infrastructure to deliver to my house, be it coax line to house or big satellite in the air, where as with hulu premium I’m paying a third party already to provide that path of deliver. I would expect no ads from hulu but more tolerable to cable or satellite delivery.

    • CoachTabe says:

      Difference is, with Hulu, those ads count against my Comcastic bandwidth cap.

  2. MightyHorse says:

    at least with cable you can get a tivo or dvr and skip the commercials. good luck, hulu plus. you’re gonna need it.

  3. Split Cents says:

    It may follow the cable tv model, but Hulu was once free with wonderful coverage. It just feels like they are stealing our candy… I don’t really mind paying for a decent service, but Hulu already has to overcome this endowment effect. They just haven’t done enough for the service to be worth it to my family.

  4. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    The reviewer is right in that adding CBS, USA, or any of the pay networks’ shows might not make a huge difference in the bottom line, but those networks have very popular shows – including the two networks would have been a huge tipping point for people. I think this is their biggest error in judgment – not having a well-rounded lineup. A huge portion of people watch CBS, USA, Showtime, and HBO. Why should people pay $10 when Hulu Plus doesn’t even offer half the shows they watch?

    • PunditGuy says:

      USA has two shows (Burn Notice, Psych) that are appointment TV for me. No USA shows in HD, no sale. Hulu Plus is already at a value disadvantage with Netflix, which I have.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        I love both those shows, too. We tend to watch Psych live anyway, but we’re happy to have a DVR so we can rewatch later in the season if we want to, or we can watch another night if we’re busy.

  5. c_c says:

    Also no FX or AMC, which have some of the better shows on tv (including HBO/Showtime)

  6. shepd says:

    It’s worthless because I can’t digitally DVR it and my internet connection is often saturated (and therefore being able to DVR it would be important).

    Bring out a separate hulu box that works just like a cable box (Such boxes do actually exist, they’re mostly used by the porn industry for some reason–usually the porn industry are the ones to know how to do it right) and I think we might have a winner.

    • zandar says:

      In my experience, having a dedicated machine- in my case, the Roku player for Netflix- is the difference between streaming content that works and does not. The Roku player presents everything we watch instantly perfectly every time. When I try to catch something on my XP box- fairly modern machine, plenty of RAM and disk space- it’s too choppy to watch. Bottom line, you need a dedicated OS that has none of the crap going on the background that full-fledged OSes have in order to have a streaming service actually worth paying money for every month.

  7. Putts says:

    The note that “Only the most recent seasons of Lost are available” baffles me, as the first 5 seasons have been available on Hulu for months…only season 6 is not entirely available.

  8. penuspenuspenus says:

    Not sure if it’s just me, but Hulu has been pretty spotty for me lately. Everything used to run fine (about 2 weeks ago), but now I get programs that won’t properly start after the initial commercial to ones that start but stall out after a good start and take forever to buffer.

    Tried on both Chrome and Firefox and it’s the same annoyance. Now I just watch the shows on the channel’s website since that works for me. Sometimes magically Hulu will work for me, but I give up now :p

    • ScarletsWalk says:

      A friend and I in two different states with two different ISPs and two different browsers are having a problem loading the same video. So while sometimes it might be you or it might be me, there obviously is something buggy on their end.

  9. Ransome says:

    She neglected, what was for me, the most annoying aspect. If you use it on an iPhone/iTouch and you stop the show to check your email, it doesn’t remember where you were in the show, it just starts back at the beginning again.

  10. JohnAllison says:

    Last winter I went through the entire Stargate SG-1 series on hulu while refinishing my basement. The same commercial, over and over and over again, it drove me nuts. I would have paid money to get rid of those ads, but seeing that hulu plus will still keep advertising, I’m going to stick with Netflix.

  11. Anonymously says:

    The only thing I’ve ever watched on Hulu is Naruto Shippuden, and they already have all 167 episodes without the “Plus”. I guess that’s extremely rare. Hopefully they don’t move it to Plus before I’m done.

  12. pantheonoutcast says:

    “There’s no programming from CBS, HBO, or Showtime, and “none of the quirky USA shows.”

    And from a comment below, no FX or AMC.

    So what are you paying for? Shows that are available from Netflix (which also offers movies for the same $10 a month) and programs that are available for free from hundreds of other places online?

    Tell you what, Hulu – provide free programming from every channel and full episodes of every show and keep the ads. Otherwise, you’re not really offering viewers anything that can’t be had from other outlets.

    • DanRydell says:

      Netflix’s selection isn’t great. Not a whole lot of good, recent shows, and the ones they do have usually aren’t available until they’re out on DVD. Hulu has more recent episodes.

      • kujospam says:

        Also Hulu has movies as well, although not as great of a selection. Personally I find it great for people without cable, which are few people. Personally I live off of internet stuff, and all my tvs in the house are hooked up to hulu, and other tv websites and video sites through a dedicated computer, and other stuff. It costs me 20 dollars a year now.instead of 140 a month where I live for the same content, and less commercials. Only thing that bothers me is the same commercials over again, make me raise the gun to my head after watching the same one 30 times within 6 hours.

  13. internetsguy says:

    So can you not access normal Hulu content through the subscription? I just went to Hulu.com and you can watch almost every episode of Lost, Seasons 1-6. If they keep the libraries separate, that’s a deal breaker.

  14. diasdiem says:

    Can’t you currently get all but the last season of Lost on Netflix online?

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Yep. We started watching a while ago. Every season other than the final season is available for streaming on Netflix.

  15. backinpgh says:

    Netflix would be very smart right now to start adding more of the content that Hulu currently delivers.

    The problem with Hulu offering this service at $10 a month still with ads is that nearly ALL the content available on Hulu is available on the original network’s own website, still ad-supported, but for FREE. So I don’t see the point in paying for it, unless and until they have more networks like FX, AMC, etc. that aren’t currently online, and perhaps once they add streaming to XBox.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      You’d think they would have at least added more old stuff to pad the catalog.

      I know I’m in the minority as far as wanting older shows but as long as they’re going to have 3 seasons of Mary Tyler Moore on the free site they could get the rest of them for Plus.

  16. BurtReynolds says:

    Hmm. My GF and I watched most of the first season of Dexter on Netflix streaming and had two discs of True Blood over the weekend. In a couple days, we’ll have more True Blood to watch and have more Dexter to watch right now. All with no ads, and only for a few bucks more a month. I also have a choice of a wide array of on-demand streaming movies and other back catalog shows. I’ll be sticking with Netflix.

  17. Talisker says:

    I’m happy to pay iTunes to download commercial-free shows, especially knowing that more of the money I send to them goes directly to the show than the shows get from the networks. I don’t mind paying for entertainment at all, especially for quality shows that are much improved without commercials. It has been a joy to discover shows like Leverage through Netflix instant streaming, or to watch Lost in HD through iTunes, or to see the entire run of Buffy the Vampire Slayer without commercials breaking up the episodes. I can’t imagine what it would be like to watch something as good as “Mad Men” with commercials every few minutes, so I’m happy to pay to see the episode when I get a chance.

    I’d be thrilled to pay for Hulu content if it meant that I didn’t have to watch commercials that destroy the mood and ambiance of the show that I’m watching. But I’m not going to pay to watch commercials.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      more of the money I send to them goes directly to the show than the shows get from the networks.

      I’m not sure whether you intentionally framed that statement to seem as if television shows are some wounded animal you’re trying to help with your charitable goods, but your money feeds into the same machine, whether it’s the network or the television show itself. Who do you think makes the television show available to iTunes? The network. Who pays the actors and writers? The network. Who pays for the show to be made? The network/production company. When you watch 30 Rock on iTunes, your money isn’t going directly to Tina Fey – it’s going to the network that allowed for 30 Rock to be made and for Tina Fey to be paid.

  18. pot_roast says:

    Ugh. They still have the huge gaps in the catalog?

    Bah. No longer interested. Maybe one day the media industry will get it right, but for now they’re content to just try to blame everything on piracy.

  19. Kia says:

    Hulu’s been uninteresting for me ever since we got Netflix’s streaming to PS3. My girlfriend and I can just download newer episodes of a show the same night they air as opposed to Hulu’s days later, and I have the entirety of a number of series permanently in my Netflix Instant Queue, everything from Weeds to Dexter, 30 Rock to Buffy and Firefly, and a lot, lot more.

    Given Hulu’s inability to work with our big-screen, the lack of options, and, well, the ads…There’s just no reason to use it.

  20. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    limit the extra ads when a user moves around in the show

    Hulu isn’t quite as bad with this as some other sites (*cough*AdultSwim*cough*) but yes, that in particular feels like punishment.

  21. Trae says:

    The only reason I’m considering Hulu Plus is that Hulu Plus and Netflix together cost less than HD cable by about $100 a month in my region.

  22. RobHoliday says:

    Dear HULU,
    For giving me quality streaming video of current and past TV shows on all cable networks (non-subscription), I would give you the following:

    I will not give you my name, address, phone number, SS# or MONEY. All of this is not information relevant to advertisers.

    What I will give you is detailed information about me and my household. General information like household ages, income and general location, to how much I spend a month on laundry detergent and what brand. I would fill out a very long and detailed questionnaire (quarterly?) I would also agree to watch up to 16 minutes of “unskippable” commercials per hour (44 minutes of video). Although I can’t guarantee I won’t take a drink or bathroom break during these commercials.

    There is no better advertising than targeted advertising. As a male, I have no interest in watching commercials for feminine products. I would bet that your advertisers would pay a higher premium for targeted ads, and I would rather watch commercials for power tools than lipstick. This would be a win-win-win-win situation. (networks-advertisers-HULU-me).

    Please consider,
    Thanks,
    Rob

  23. jeff_the_snake says:

    bittorent gives me high quality drm free video on demand for free. if big content wants me to do the right thing they need to make their service at least that convenient. i don’t want to download a flash plugin or a special program, and i’d like to keep using linux on my media pc without losing features or access to content. for that i would actually pay them a reasonable amount instead of breaking the law.

    • jason in boston says:

      You forgot about power savings! I have an atom box running xmbc that streams anything that you can at it. 3 watts idle, 10 watts running. I don’t think a windows machine can run as well on this hardware.

    • shepd says:

      MythTV. Not that you shouldn’t keep torrenting, but at least you can pretend to be legit. :)

  24. Xay says:

    So, Netflix’s instant streaming TV selections are better than Hulu’s and they’re ad free? i’ll just hold pat and buy any other shows I want from Amazon or iTunes.

  25. Joey Strange says:

    I’ve been a Netflix member for a long time and was always happy with how fast they mailed my next selection. When they offered their service over X-Box for no up charge I was baffled. How could a company offer a more convenient and earth conscience service with out trying to gouge it’s customer base for more money? Hey Hulu…..SUCK IT MONEY GRUBBERS! It’s bad enough you turned into a pay service but to now charge and then make even more money from forcing people to watch the advertising is the beginning of the end for you. Bye-Bye Sucka.

    • BurtReynolds says:

      Seriously. I don’t get how the suits at Hulu think they are somehow offering a better service.

  26. Biokinetica says:

    You guys could just set up HTPCs…

  27. Razor512 says:

    netflix offers more content with out the ads for less money.

    hulu sucks because even with their paid service, only a select few shows have the full series.

    And it cant be compared to cable tv because there is a delay between when a show comes out on tv and on hulu

    Hulu still has annoying ads and their site is still slow on peak usage times.

    If they want to compete, they will need to keep the price at $10 and offer current shows from a wide range of channels and match their actual air times and don’t remove old shows and offer it commercial free

    cable tv may be more expensive but it offers more content for the money (even if you don’t want it all)

  28. Randomeis says:

    Right now, I’m wishing it was on my TiVo and my Android. Those two things would come close to making it worth it