Well, they finally did it. Today Hulu announced its paid service Hulu Plus, the long-rumored subscription product offering viewers an expanded library that’s viewable on multiple devices including the iPhone, iPad, and select TVs and Blu-ray players.
With Apple, Microsoft Xbox, Samsung, Sony, and Vizio already on the supported product roster, Hulu will cover the video device universe from phones to Blu-ray players to TVs to gaming consoles, making “internet-enabled” an even more powerful marketing buzz-word going forward.
The subscription service, currently available only through a “preview invite request,” costs $9.99 per month, giving the $8.99 Netflix unlimited option a run for its money. Hulu Plus is still-ad supported, but has expanded its library to include full seasons for almost all of the current broadcast shows on its service, as well as back seasons or full runs of some old programs. “It’s a treasure chest in the cloud for TV lovers” Hulu CEO Jason Kilar wrote on the Hulu Blog.
The strong pitch here is a unique, uninterrupted television viewing experience; Kilar’s blog post guides the viewer from the living room to the patio to a local café, all without skipping a beat. “You can start watching a show on your HDTV one night, pick up where you left off on your laptop at lunch, watch another chunk on the bus ride home on your iPhone, and finish watching in bed on your iPad,” writes Kilar. I tested out the free iPhone app, which currently features a sampling of ad-supported free content like 30 Rock and If I Can Dream—and it works beautifully (headphones only—no sharing with the neighbors on that bus ride home, I guess).
Hulu has made great strides bridging the gap between traditional television and new media entertainment, from its initial browser-only service to Hulu Desktop. And with growing demand from consumers wanting TV-right-here-right-now, it is no surprise that advertisers, content makers, and device manufacturers are seeing greater opportunities with Hulu Plus.
I use an internet-enabled Blu-ray disc player (and more recently a Roku) to watch Netflix movies and some television programs on my television set—I don’t have a cable subscription or dish. I can tell you right now: the the convenience of instant viewing heavily outweighs the limited selection and reduced viewing quality. I haven’t exchanged a Netflix disc in about 6 months, and I’ve never bought a Blu-ray movie. The only titles I own are the two that came with Blue-ray player: Good Fellas and Blood Diamond.
Going forward I plan to use Netflix for movies and Hulu for television, provided my invite request is accepted. I’ve been spoiled by the ad-free Netflix model; we’ll see how hard it will be to acclimate to ad interruptions. Let us know what you think: if you don’t have cable, how do you get your entertainment? What is your setup? Will Hulu be a part of the package?