What happened, Hulu?

hulu logoAfter years of watching illegally obtained TV shows, I still remember the excitement I felt after the announcement of Hulu – a website to stream current TV seasons for free. No more downloading shows (along with viruses), no more recording shows on VHS tapes, and no more wishing that TiVo existed in the Midwest. It was an event that would change the way we watched TV forever.

Or so I thought.

Five years and an infinite number of changes later, that’s not exactly the case. Not only do users have to subscribe (at $7.99 a month) to watch shows that are a certain number of days old, free shows are only accessible via computer. That means internet capable TVs, tablets, and smartphones all cost extra for the same services. This would seem somewhat reasonable if more shows could be seen for free, but now an increasing number of programs require a Plus account, even for the newest shows. (TV shows are generally listed the day after being aired, with only a few available at a time. The older an episode, the less likely it can be seen for free.)

And how many of us have time to watch entire shows at our computer? Sure we can hook up our computers to our TVs, but the quality is never as good, and without a mouse the interactive ads just seem silly.

Double Jeopardy

The plot thickens when looking at Hulu’s owners – Disney-ABC Television Group at 32 percent, Fox Broadcasting Company with 36 percent, and NBC Universal Television Group at 32 percent. As the owners of programs being featured, these major network companies are re-earning from their content. Because they own the rights, it would be easy for them to post shows for free. Web traffic would be through the roof and they’d make a killing on ads – after all, they show tons of them.

But instead of offering up this incentive, they charge a monthly fee. That means if you already pay a cable bill, you have to pay twice to see the same content on the go. Three if you just happened to forget to DVR a show; how many times can we pay for the same access?

It’s likely we are years away from this universal one-fee-meets all access, but we can dream, right? Maybe with enough opposition, Hulu can return to its former glory, which is to say free. After all, if Netflix taught us anything, it’s that there’s nothing a group of angry consumers can’t accomplish. Complain on, folks.

Why My Mom Will Never Drop Cable for Netflix and Hulu

I’ve always done my best to keep my mom savvy with the times. I’ve tried to introduce her to Facebook, YouTube, the advantages of FarmVille over solitaire — you know, modern stuff. But the only time I’ve managed to captivate her interest is when I showed her the insane selection of movies and TV shows available on Netflix and Hulu.

Whenever I’m visiting, my mom is quick to ask about the new stuff we can watch. She’ll shotgun an entire season of Frasier, or check out new movies from Starz. Heck, I even got her into Battlestar Galactica. I figured it would be no problem to combine this with her almost all-consuming interest in saving money. I took the plunge; after all, $17 per month ($9 for Netflix streaming, $8 for Hulu Plus) beats what she pays for cable by a long shot.

“Hey mom, could I convince you to drop cable and get Netflix and Hulu instead?”

My mom thought about this for awhile and said definitively, “No.”

I was surprised by the answer and asked if she’d explain. I was impressed with her response because I think it describes why Netflix and Hulu will have some difficulty drawing customers like my mom, who represents a huge number of potential viewers. Here’s what she said:

Netflix and Hulu are great and all, but I never remember how to use them when you aren’t around… and if I didn’t have cable I couldn’t watch the news!

I always suspected my mom would have trouble using even mildly technological stuff without me, but the last part really gets to the heart of the issue — without cable my mom has no way of watching her beloved local news. Sure, we could argue about how I could show my mom how to go online to check the local news outlet website and blah blah blah, but that’s just not how a lot of people my parents’ age work. They want to flip on the TV and let the news happen to them rather than clicking around a site to find stories they consider interesting.

The nightly local news seems like such a trivial reason to keep paying for cable, but the pre-bedtime ritual of listening to the local anchor is nothing to sneeze at in my mom’s opinion. I think Netflix and Hulu could make an absolute killing if they lowered the entrance barrier for local news outlets to get their content included in their set of features.

Netflix and Hulu, I’m telling you guys, advertise to local stations and create a way for them to easily stream content to your users from your services. If you do that, my mom will drop cable and never look back. I can almost guarantee you that she won’t be alone.

That said, Netflix has turned my mom into a bit of a TV hog…

Hulu Desktop Lets You Watch TV Online Without The Browser

huludesktopthumbHulu – the mega-popular TV and movie streaming site backed by NBC, Fox, and others – has just launched a desktop application for both Windows and Mac that allows you to stream all Hulu content on your PC.

Hulu Desktop adds support for Windows Media Center and Apple remotes, which will allow you to treat your PC as an entertainment center.  Like the Hulu website, Hulu Desktop requires Adobe Flash to be installed – however, the application is written natively for Windows and Apple so no other software is required.

One of the biggest benefits Hulu Desktop provides is the ability to turn your TV-connected computer into a replacement for cable TV.  Hulu broadcasts many mainstream TV shows about a day after they air, and by hooking your computer to a TV you’ll be able to watch them just like you would if you were paying for cable.

Hulu Desktop is currently in beta and is a part of Hulu’s newly-launched Labs site.  Even if you don’t have your computer connected to a TV, Hulu Desktop still provides an improved viewing experience without having to rely on your web browser.  For an overview of the software, check out the video below:

Hulu Desktop is a free download for Windows and Mac. [Download: Windows or Mac]

System Requirements:

PC

  • Intel Pentium Core Duo 1.8GHz (or equivalent)
  • At least 2.0 GB RAM
  • 2 Mbps Internet connection or greater
  • Flash 9.0.124

Mac

  • Intel Pentium Core Duo 2.4GHz (or equivalent)
  • At least 2.0 GB RAM
  • Mac OS v10.4 (Tiger) or later
  • 2 Mbps Internet connection or greater
  • Flash 9.0.124