Why Hulu Plus Sucks, and Why You Should Use It Anyway

Hulu Plus is the subscription based big brother to Hulu's free video streaming platform. It costs $7.99 a month, and really does open up the catalog of available titles. In fact, for subscribers, there are many shows that have the complete catalog of episodes from every season. (The Office, Family Guy, and many others)

The other thing Hulu Plus offers is for users to watch their shows outside of their traditional web-only environment. Roku users, PS3 users, and several other hardware based devices can watch their Hulu Plus subscriptions on their television. There are also applications for mobile devices as well, which really open the floodgates for how a person can watch television.

Hulu Plus has its limitations though, and one big one isn't obvious unless you try the devices out. Many shows are not available anywhere but on the web. That may seem bizarre, I know it was for me. Many of the shows you can watch with a Hulu Plus subscription on the web are just not available on streaming devices. After talking with a representative from Hulu, it's because their licensing with content providers specifically prohibits streaming to devices other than a web browser. Which, for those of us wanting to watch television on an actual television, sucks.

So why would I recommend getting Hulu Plus? There are surely reasons not to do so. With the subscription fee, you still have commercials. Unless you like to watch television on your laptop, the selection of videos isn't complete. So why would a person spend $7.99 a month for such frustrating service? Several reasons:

Hulu and Hulu Plus support Linux.

For most non-Linux users, this might seem silly, but for those of us frustrated with the lack of Linux support coming from Netflix, it's significant. Hulu goes so far as to provide a Linux program for their content called "Hulu Desktop", which makes browsing your Hulu shows a bit easier. It's designed to run full screen, and did I mention there is a Linux version?

Hulu Plus is New

It's an amazing feat that Hulu managed to get so many television shows streamable for their users. The catalog they have is quite impressive. As someone that lived through the dawning of digital music purchasing, I think the Hulu team has done a great job of negotiating with backwards thinking content providers. Yes, the content is only streamable. Yes, it's protected with DRM. If you remember, however, it wasn't that long ago that much of the music we bought was DRM-laden as well. With digital video, we need to crawl before we walk, and I think Hulu is doing a good job of getting us crawling.

Paying Customers Get to Complain

Oh sure, we can all complain about our frustrations with Hulu's inability to stream their entire catalog to devices. We can all whine about DRM and how it's ruining entertainment. (I hate DRM, I really do) The thing is, when you're a paying customer, companies are forced to listen.

My single complaining subscriber voice isn't very loud, but it's a lot louder than the general public complaining to the ether. If you're a Hulu user -- join me in complaining! Use the Contact Us form to send a note about how frustrating the streaming restrictions are. If the Hulu folks get enough complaints, it will be leverage when they negotiate with content providers.

Even Crippled, It's Still Pretty Cool

I'll admit, I was livid when I found that not all television shows from Hulu are streamable to my Roku. I vowed I'd cancel my subscription and get my television shows from torrent sites, to stick it to the man. The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized that if I don't support the feeble beginnings of this transition the video industry is undergoing, I'm hurting things more than helping. In addition, the Hulu Plus library is impressive, even with those shows that aren't allowed on streaming devices.

Does that mean I'll never torrent a television show again? Of course not. It does mean that I'll try to watch it in a way that benefits everyone though. I subscribe to cable television, own a Tivo, and have Hulu Plus and Netflix subscriptions. Like most folks, I'm not unwilling to pay for things. I just don't want to be bullied with DRM and watching restrictions. As a paying consumer, hopefully those folks taking my money are listening.


Shawn is Associate Editor here at Linux Journal, and has been around Linux since the beginning. He has a passion for open source, and he loves to teach. He also drinks too much coffee, which often shows in his writing.


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I agree that perhaps Hulu

Anonymous's picture

I agree that perhaps Hulu deserves our support as a "groundbreaker" and that we should be showing the content providers that online streaming can be a valid source of revenue...

I think we need to be careful here though, Hulu worked because it was started by the content providers... it will be a long time before another online service can pop up and rival it, since it's owned by major networks. We need walk the line between showing that online is a valid medium, and cowing into the "old model" again.

Consider this possible scenario: Hulu has launched a premium service, the premium service offers "more selection, above and beyond" the free service, once they have a sufficient userbase in Hulu Plus, what's to stop them from slowly crippling the free version? If enough people show their support for the model, then there's no reason to explore other models, there's no reason not to "push" the free users to sign up with the premium service.

Consider the alternative: Nobody signs up for Hulu plus, and it dies an uneventful death. They have spent time building the infrastructure and clients for all these devices now... are they to leave these individuals unable to watch the ads which (as you point out) are what really pay the bills?

If ads pay the bills, than I shall continue to support them by watching their free version and viewing their ads, until either the show selection gets too small, or the "commercial breaks" get too long.

Sidenote: Ads on Hulu should be "worth" more than on TV, since the buyer can target them to the *exact* demographic they're aiming for. You don't need to rely on what percent of viewers of a certain show fit your target demographic, you can have an ad that only shows for Males age 25-29.

The beautiful and probably

Hulu plus is a rip off. 's picture

The beautiful and probably the most scandalous thing about hulu plus is that all the wonderful shows you can now get on hulu plus for ten dollars a month.. Well, they ALL used to be free. Every show used to be free but now it will cost you! Not to mention you still get incredibly slow streaming time, horrid pixelated picture, and, my favorite, the wonderful advertisements. Skrew Hulu.

Less restrictions less torrents

Nelson's picture

Your last two paragraphs are something I've benn thinking for a while now. I don't care paying subscriptions on hulu plus or netflix... I wished I didn't need torrents. I can watch adds. Networks must get in their heads that they lose more with the restrictions. Those restrictions don't really work in their favour.
I live in Puerto Rico and Netflix doesn't stream video here. At least Hulu works here, as a matter of fact I'm a hulu plus subscriber and just yesterday ordered a roku. We do need to embrace this technologies if we want them to become more widespread.
So TY.

diet cookies

shams00's picture

Thanks for sharing this. Sure, I'm just an old fart but this is really good stuff. Hope to hear some of it live some time back here in the heartland.
diet cookies

I just plug the HDMI cable

Davey's picture

I just plug the HDMI cable into my TV. Its GARBAGE though that they charge me $8 (same as Netflix) for an incomplete service. Literally its an inconvienient ripoff. All my favorite shows are only available with a browser and not the TV. The selection of shows is horrable. Yeah a few good ones but thats all. Youll see many MANY unheard of networks and discontinued shows. Thanks HULU but no thanks. Im canceling the service since I only seem to watch 1 show and Im sick of hooking the TV up to the computer. -WAIT- Should I be mad at HULU? or maybe Sony for not including a flash capable portable browser (opera!) in the TV's firmware so I CAN watch it on a browser!?!?! So maybe the TV should get with it and have a browser shell so to circumvent the licensing! :D

I think you're off on your browser comment

Anonymous's picture

I used to watch Hulu on my PS3 browser but then Hulu blocked it specifically from the PS3 (later to release a HuluPlus client.) While the browser on the PS3 isn't amazing, you're off here on the complaint.



erdem's picture

excellent,amazing.we want much more article...


TURKER's picture

we'll wait for your writings.


mert's picture

excellent article ,Shawn,thanks.

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Jimmie's picture


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Great to see this blog

baju muslim's picture

I agree its great to have that kinda of information. This is really a good info to share. Thanks you for putting this togeather for me, I know you dont get any money for sharing your knowledge but I just want to say thank you.

watching HULU on a real tv

Reality_Check's picture

Hmmm, just run a RGB cable from your computer (even laptops have a monitor output) to the back of your flat screen where it says "RGB". be sure to select "RGB" as source in the input menu.

I built an old Dell tower that runs Linux Mint just to watch free HULU. I pay $40.00/mo. for high speed Wifi and no longer pay cable/dish bills, and have a Magic Jack for my landline ($20.00/yr.) considering I shelled out around $100.00/mo for a dish, and $70.00 to Verizon for a landline, this is a big savings.
I see the death of greedy extortion artists once high speed is universally available.


Anonymous's picture

Yes and check on "Playon" a new software you can run through roku and get Free Hulu. Its a bit shaky right now.. but well worth the $39.00 a year fee.

How much content is non-Netflix?

Anonymous's picture

I see people mentioning Buffy, the Office, and Family Guy as series's that you can stream in their entirety. I can already stream those to my tv through Netflix on my Xbox. How much new content does Hulu Plus offer? I'm really interested in the idea of Netflix + Hulu = cancel cable tv, but it's not clear that the content is at that point yet.

(As for cable internet, my area just got Clear, so my plan would be to try that out, and ditch the cable company entirely.)

Hulu plus totally sucks,

Anonymous's picture

Hulu plus totally sucks, tried watching Merlin, and none of the seasons are available. I expected the same as anyone, see whatever on cpu on tv. That's so NOT the case. I see no reason at all paying for Hulu plus!

For Me

Shawn Powers's picture

Hulu is great for the "I missed a show last night", because it has a fairly big selection of current shows.

Shawn is Associate Editor here at Linux Journal, and has been around Linux since the beginning. He has a passion for open source, and he loves to teach. He also drinks too much coffee, which often shows in his writing.

As with all new technologies...

JShuford's picture

If you wait long enough there will be changes to both the content line-up and delivery mechanisms. Right now providers are whetting their lips at the potential for locking users into contracts and devices... Give it some time and there should be streaming bliss for everyone.

I for one will NOT submit to DRM and will continue to do what I have to in resisting against DRM technology.

"each liberty that is surrendered is more control given."

...I'm not just a "troll", but also a subscriber!

You do realize that Hulu is

Tony9000's picture

You do realize that Hulu is owned by the content providers, right?

So, of course, they are getting content deals, the content providers own it, but they obviously don't want to cannibalize their cable fees. Take a look at their about page.

Ads - the deal killer

Anonymous's picture

To me, what makes Hulu Plus DOA is the fact that you are still subjected to annoying ads. Hulu people: I won't give you $8/month for a service that includes ads, but I'd be willing to give you $16/month if you get rid of them altogether.

Hulu Desktop

Rob Potter's picture

I had been a big fan of Hulu Desktop but have stopped using it of late. What I found is that Hulu Desktop does not show all the shows that Hulu offers through the browser. So even though there is a Linux version of Hulu Desktop, it is only useful if the show you want is one of the blessed ones being offered.

Best bet is still the browser.

On another note, I am still baffled by the inability of netflix to allow streaming on Linux. They say their content providers wont allow it but to me it does not make sense. Hulu does it and does it with DRM, so why can't Netflix?

Well, Netflix uses

Anonymous's picture

Well, Netflix uses Microsoft's Silverlight DRM stack. If Silverlight were to be available for Linux, it would work. Hopefully one day Mono's Moonlight will have a DRM stack that is backwards compatible with Silverlight's. Or Netflix makes a binary that is Linux compatible. That's the only reason why their "content providers" don't allow it, no real DRM management on Linux.

Hulu Desktop

Shawn Powers's picture

I'm pretty sure Hulu Desktop is considered a "device", since it is designed to be controlled with a remote, etc. So yeah, even their own program is prohibited. Ugh.

I don't understand Netflix either. If nothing else release a proprietary, precompiled binary program that will stream files. I think it's dumb.

Shawn is Associate Editor here at Linux Journal, and has been around Linux since the beginning. He has a passion for open source, and he loves to teach. He also drinks too much coffee, which often shows in his writing.

I take that back

Shawn Powers's picture

I just checked, and at least some of the "browser only" programs play on Hulu Desktop. I have no idea how to tell what will play where. DRM sucks, period.

Shawn is Associate Editor here at Linux Journal, and has been around Linux since the beginning. He has a passion for open source, and he loves to teach. He also drinks too much coffee, which often shows in his writing.

It doesn't all add up

Anonymous's picture

First off, I do like the free Hulu website and I probably should not say how I avoid the commercials. Perhaps that is why I like it.

What bothers me more is that every provider has their hand out for a monthly fee. Please get in line. Comcast's monthly extortion for their miserable bundled ISP and cable TV service takes up almost all of my monthly allowance, even before the Hulu bits hit my screen. Comcast is about gobble up even more content providers. Hulu and others are going to have to deal with this kind of MS-like monopoly before they will have any weight with DRM dictators.


TommyD's picture

I use PlayOn, and have had no problem streaming my Hulu Plus stuff to my TV using a PS/3. Unfortuunately, PlayOn currently requires a Windows box. I hope it eventually supports Linux. I watch Hulu+ mostly on my Ubuntu box which is hooked up to a large LCD in the family room. However, I like to also stream with PlayOn - it aggregate Hulu, Netflix, CBS, etc. so I can watch them all on the TV in the living room. Apparently, Hulu+ doesn't "realize" it's not on the web.

Hopefully I can eventually run PlayOn on Linux, or perhaps I'll have to go Roku, or some other kind of nettop.

Hulu Plus + Netflix = Bliss

8ify's picture

Even though both Netflix and Hulu Plus don't offer EVERYTHING I want, It's getting really close. For a price of 15 bucks a month, you can have it running on any TV (with a Roku or Boxee Box). I'm so close to ditching cable its not even funny! In 2 days I have a post talking about how you can save coin by killing cable with this exact setup on 8ify

Cord Cutting

Anonymous's picture

I've been without cable TV service for a couple years now. It is perfect bliss. Granted, I barely ever watch TV to begin with, but with your setup there's not much reason to keep it around.

The biggest things I miss are the sporting events, but I can always go to a bar or restaurant and see them and seeing the occasional game (on TV) isn't worth > $100/month.

If you do cut the cable, I suggest getting a good antenna. DTV over the air is quite amazing nowadays, provided you have a decent signal. It is full 1080 crystal clear resolution, and to be really honest the basic 13 channels are all you really need anyway (though DTV OTA has many more than 13 channels; most are crap though -- so it's the same as cable/satellite/etc).

The sad thing is that my internet service comes from the cable company, and they keep raising my price due to "network programming costs" (greed) going up. So, because TV costs more, my internet does too(!) even though I have no TV service from them. If they keep it up, they'll lose my internet service too. There is no end to the media company greed.

Great suggestion

8ify's picture

Awesome suggestion on the HD Antenna! Any model you would suggest?

Country restriction...

Marc-Andre's picture

My biggest problem is it's only available in the US. I can't even pay for Hulu Plus service here in Canada. It's country DRM. :(

We get all the same shows on Satellite TV or Cable, so why can't we get them streaming here too? It's just not fair.

Bugs me too

bouncing's picture

I'm in the US, but that general kind of thing is what bugs me about Hulu, not to mention similar restrictions from the BBC.

The whole point of the Internet is that it's a global network. The point of the web is that it works with any device.

Geographically limiting content and intentionally blocking it on certain web browsers goes against the grain of progress that Hulu is supposed to be a part of.


Anonymous's picture

Don't support Hulu or any other media company venture that doesn't treat their customers fairly.

1) Ads based = FREE
2) Paid = NO Ads, and a reasonable price is required ($7.99 is reasonable, but NOT for what they're giving you)
3) NO LIMITATIONS to where the media can be played (which devices/etc) or how often
4) NO pulling of content that has been added to a service just because you feel like it.
5) NO retarded delays to what is available for streaming/disc (yes, I realize these BS contracts are what's screwing up Netflix).

It seems pretty simple. Treat your customer, like, a customer and make them happy and we'll be happy to pay you. Treat us like children who can't decide what, when, where, why, and how we want to watch something, and we'd rather not have any service you offer.

It's just plain idiotic that these companies would rather create failing business models than give the customers what they want. It's sad that they'll throw everything they have at you in every possible format, EXCEPT how you actually want to use it -- apparently, even if you're paying for it.

As I see it, only Netflix seems to understand their customers. They may be subject to these crappy contracts (which may ultimately cause even Netflix to fail in a couple years unless things change), but at least they've gone above and beyond to ensure that their content is available ad free, and on a variety of devices, for a reasonable price. They may not have a linux client yet (major problem), but it's not a deal breaker since almost every major appliance now supports hardware based streaming.

If the media companies don't get it, let them fail. Others will come and take their place, giving customers what they want, how they want it, at a reasonable price.

Don't fool yourself, Hulu is a content provider (NBC).

Agreed. What's the point of

korin43's picture

Agreed. What's the point of paying to watch ads? Cable TV gets away with that, but on the internet people have choices, and only having one option (pay and watch ads or don't pay and watch ads) won't work this time.

Here's an idea: Subscribe if you like it

bouncing's picture

So the logic is, if you give Hulu Plus $8/mo, maybe that'll teach them and they'll stop it with the restrictions and commercials? By the same token, can we all pressure BP into being more environmentally responsible by making sure we buy their gas, so they'll have to listen to us then?

Look, if Hulu Plus is *worth it* to you and you enjoy the service enough, go buy it. But given all the commercials and device restrictions, it's not worth it to me, and I really don't have some civic duty to support Hulu Plus "just because." I'm not going to subscribe to a service I don't think is worth it just because it'll give me some imaginary leverage to have the service dramatically altered.


Shawn Powers's picture

As with all things, you certainly have the right not to support Hulu. I wasn't trying to guilt anyone into supporting them. :)

Shawn is Associate Editor here at Linux Journal, and has been around Linux since the beginning. He has a passion for open source, and he loves to teach. He also drinks too much coffee, which often shows in his writing.

I'm Being More Optimistic. :)

Shawn Powers's picture

I don't think Hulu is "sticking it to me" with their commercials and device restrictions. I think the content providers are forcing Hulu's hand with the devices. I'm optimistic that Hulu is working hard to provide their clients (me) with more flexible viewing options. Why do I think that? Because if I don't see progress, I'll quit using them.

As far as ads go, ads pay the bills. There is no way my $7.99 a month will provide the revenue required to pay for streaming television shows to me. I think subscribers paying $7.99 a month probably barely covers the bandwidth those clients use, much less paying for content. (Making TV is expensive)

Again, the subject of this post was, "Why Hulu Sucks..." -- I don't deny it's cruddy. I'm just hopeful for the future. :)

Shawn is Associate Editor here at Linux Journal, and has been around Linux since the beginning. He has a passion for open source, and he loves to teach. He also drinks too much coffee, which often shows in his writing.

If ads pay the bills stop

Anonymous's picture

If ads pay the bills stop charging for Plus and open up all the content to the free version. More views equals more ads equals more value for advertisers equals more money they can charge advertisers. So just what is the Plus charge for?


bouncing's picture

You'd be surprised just how cheap bandwidth is. If you don't have much leverage to buy in bulk, it's about 20 cents a gig. Few users are watching more than a couple gigs of bandwidth a month, or less than a dollar's worth.

I'd prefer an ala cart model. Charge me per episode or per show. If I wanted to pay too much money for loads of crappy content with lots of commercials, I'd get cable.


rstreeter78's picture

I was wondering if there is a list of the shows which are unable to stream to TV's ? My wife and I were planning to purchase a Roku Box or even a Boxee Box to stream our Netflix and Hulu Plus. That is why I ask.

I asked too

Shawn Powers's picture

I asked the same question. I *think* the shows listed here: http://www.hulu.com/plus#content are all shows you can stream to a device. If you add a show to your queue, it will show the options available for viewing. (See here: http://i56.tinypic.com/2lbz2hf.png )

I looked for "Hell's Kitchen" in that first link I gave you, and it doesn't seem to appear. So I think that first link only shows device-streamable content.

Hope that helps.

Shawn is Associate Editor here at Linux Journal, and has been around Linux since the beginning. He has a passion for open source, and he loves to teach. He also drinks too much coffee, which often shows in his writing.

I too enjoy Hells Kitchen and

rstreeter78's picture

I too enjoy Hells Kitchen and am disappointed to not see it on that list

I subscribed, and I kind of

Webmistress's picture

I subscribed, and I kind of love it. We don't need a device, since our TV has the capability built in. I have to say though, for all its limitations, streaming the entire series of Buffy, and streaming tons of new shows in HD makes it totally worth it. I am just waiting for the time when Comcast throttles me because it competes with cable TV. They are already messing with Netflix.

Katherine Druckman is webmistress at LinuxJournal.com. You might find her on Twitter or at the Southwest Drupal Summit


t3084's picture

The throttling you are experiencing is most likely due to Netflix servers throttling you. They do the same with their DVD's. If you send and receive a high volume in the month, they will "throttle" on sending DVD's to you... just as they do with streaming. :)

I was thinking more along

Webmistress's picture

I was thinking more along these lines: http://www.itworld.com/legal/131220/data-shows-comcast-really-villain-ne...

Katherine Druckman is webmistress at LinuxJournal.com. You might find her on Twitter or at the Southwest Drupal Summit