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

by Shawn Powers

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.

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