Hulu recently made their much awaited announcement of a subscription based plan which allows you to pay for Hulu. Why would you pay for a free service? Well that has always been the question that buggers free services. Hulu’s answer for Plus was to provide full current seasons of new shows, full seasons from old shows, higher resolution, and the ability to watch it on different platforms such as your TV if you happen to own a TV that supports it.
So let’s disect the features. First with TV support. I think TV support has been one of the bigger features that people have wanted, hence constant battles to hack Hulu onto their television. I mean let’s face it Hulu is great in its own right, and why not put it on your television? At launch it seems sort of limited to Samsung TVs, but it seems they will be adding support for Playstation 3, XBox360 and Sony Blu-Ray Players in the future. However, I hope they also include Wii in the future as right now this feature doesn’t help me at all, and I am sure it doesn’t help many. I would rather they just figure out a way to let subscriber’s get to a feed that they can use anywhere they can get a feed.
Higher Resolution… Good… Can’t complain.
More episodes. This must be the biggest feature that people wanted. People have long been sick of only the latest 3 episodes. However, it doesn’t seem that they went all out. They only have done it with the new seasons and a select few number of previous shows. And looking at the list of shows that they will be making available… shows like Roswell, X-Files, and Heroes… I couldn’t help but notice a similarity….
Yes that is right, Netflix. The new stuff that they are adding, seems a lot like the old stuff that Netflix has. Netflix has actually been working quite hard to increase their library of movies and television shows in particular on their instant view feature. [1. I think after Hulu, they realized that people wanted to watch TV on the internet slightly more than movies and so that has been where they have been concentrating. It is also probably much easier for them to get contracts for the TV shows than the movies.]
Netflix actually already has most of the backlog that Hulu Plus is offering, if not all. The main thing Netflix hasn’t gotten is current seasons but even that isn’t entirely safe from Netflix. I know the last couple of years Netflix had Heroes on their instant view the day after it aired and then for the rest of the season. I think they have tested this option with a few other shows as well, but am not entirely sure. The point is, this has already been tested on Netflix and the fact that Hulu Plus is now doing it, will actually give Netflix more leverage to do it with the likes of CBS and Showtime whom they already have a working relationship with.
That’s the other thing though, is that because Netflix has been working on it longer, they have a much bigger log of shows. They have most of Discovery Channel’s shows (which I love), they have South Park (which was huge when they made that deal and it is still in my queue too), and they have tons of cartoons (which is oddly missing out of Hulu). They also tend to get an occasional deal with Showtime to show some of their content which again is huge. Getting a paid cable company to show their stuff on your online viewing… I just hope this deal gives more leverage so that we get even more Showtime content.
Netflix also is way ahead of Hulu’s game in the devices bracket. It is already available on a number of Blu-Ray, DVD, and TV manufacturer’s boxes, and is on all three of the consoles. Personally, I already have Netflix on my Blu-Ray and my Wii, and if I wanted it I could probably put it on my cellphone too. But I don’t see much point in that.
The Hidden Feature
Hulu Plus has one extra feature that they aren’t really advertising at all. And that feature is Commercials!!!! Yay for commercials. That’s right, you don’t even lose the advertisements from Hulu when you pay to watch it. They literally are following the old TV model, they offer some stuff for free at a decent quality picture, then force you to pay for the same stuff plus slightly more at a slightly better quality, but change nothing else.
It is a little surprising to me because the one thing that almost all free internet services do when they start having subscription services for their content, is take out the ads. Yet Hulu has boldly decided to say they won’t. This actually cheapens the service to me. To me the very first thing they should take out is the commercials, and then once they do that they add additional features.
So what we have is you can Spend $9.99 a month for Hulu Plus which gives you slightly more shows than Hulu with advertisements, and a slightly better image quality. Netflix you pay $8.99 a month for a much bigger library of shows and movies, all without advertisements, AND you get hard copy DVDs every month as well, up to 1 out at a time. I don’t even see how Hulu is even remotely competing with this.
Honestly, I always thought that Netflix should offer a plan for $4.99 a month where you just get the instant view, I’d probably subscribe to it. If Hulu Plus had offered their services for $4.99 a month, I think there would be a real competition. But at $1 more a month and fewer features, I think that they are only going to be getting suckers who just really like Hulu and have never heard of Netflix (which is probably a small number).
At this point, I realize it looks like this is just a huge advertisement for Netflix, but I think it is worth pointing out that they aren’t on my list of advertisers. I have no affiliation with them at all. I just don’t want people to be suckered into Hulu Plus and want them to know there are better options out there. Plus I actually think Hulu was in a great position to put out a really good product, yet they didn’t. I wouldn’t mind if Hulu improved their service to provide real competition and improve the online video services all the way around. But as it is, Hulu isn’t even offering more of the same, their service is clearly worse in all respects.