Hulu: Plus… or Minus?

Remember me? I know I haven’t posted here in a while, but I thought I’d pop my head in and share my experiences with the newly launched Hulu Plus on the PS3. For those of you outside the US… I think Anthony wrote something humorous about a videogame!

Weaning myself off of an expensive dependence on cable TV has been a dream of mine for a while now, but the sticking point has always been that I absolutely rely on my DVR. As soon as the Hulu Plus service was announced, I knew that I had to check it out, and I decided that paying $20 for three months of PSN Plus was a worthwhile trade off – it’s still cheaper than what I was paying for cable.

My previous experiences with Hulu on my TV have been thanks to a handy adapter cable and my MacBook. It’s not pretty, but it works. It’s just kind of a pain in the ass to set it up each time. Still, I think it’s fair to compare that setup with the PS3 implementation. After the jump, I’ll run down each method’s convenience, show availability, video quality, and interface.

Convenience: The PS3 wins here, but only by a hair.

The main point where the PS3 wins over my laptop is that it’s already hooked up to the TV, and all I have to do is launch the Hulu+ application to start watching something.

If you want to watch Hulu using your computer, you can’t actually use any of the programs like Boxee or Kylo that are designed to work well with streamed content on your TV, just because Hulu wants to tightly control where their content is shown. I hear that Windows users can currently stream Hulu to their 360 or PS3 using a program called PlayOn, but I do have to wonder how long that will continue working.

In any case, instant access to the TV is about as far as the convenience of the PS3 solution goes, unfortunately.

Show Availability: MacBook

One thing that Plus does right is offer full seasons of recent TV shows, but fewer shows are available than you might imagine.┬áThis was actually kind of a surprise, although I suppose it shouldn’t have been. Half of the twelve shows I currently have in my queue can only be watched through the website. Most of the unavailable shows are from cable networks, but there are a few odd cases – for some strange reason┬áThe Book Group is missing the first and last episode of its second series on Plus.

This is definitely a bit disappointing because most of the shows I want to follow at the moment are summer shows on USA or Syfy. Once the fall season starts, Hulu Plus should have a lot more going for it in this department. It’s probably also true that better overall availability is something that will come with time, like it has with Netflix’s streaming service.

Video Quality: It’s close, but the MacBook wins here as well.

One of the big selling points of Hulu Plus is that the content is streamed in HD at a much higher level of quality. I definitely noticed an increase in quality on both the MacBook and the PS3 for shows delivered in HD – at least as good as HD streaming from Netflix – but all of the shows I’ve watched on the PS3 so far have had glitchy video.

I’ve never experienced that when watching on my laptop, so it must be unique to the service on the PS3, which is especially worrisome. It’s also occurred on two separate internet connections, so my net provider is not the culprit. I’m hoping it’s just part of the growing pains of the service and that I’ll stop seeing glitches after a week or two.

Interface: MacBook

I think the interface is actually where the PS3 implementation fails in the biggest way.

First off, the interface was designed with a controller in mind, not the blu ray remote. In fact, none of the garden variety remote controls (play, stop, fast forward, etc.) do anything at all while you’re watching a video. It’s bizarre that these functions weren’t enabled, especially since they do work with Netflix streaming.

Secondly, the queue is entirely useless in the Hulu Plus app. I have several hundred videos in my queue (all 10 seasons of Stargate SG-1, for example). When you’re accessing your queue from the web, episodes can be grouped by show, and it’s compact enough that you can easily jump from one show to the next.

On the PS3 you have to navigate through the ENTIRE queue, from START to FINISH, and it is ordered by whatever play count you set in the “list view” version of your queue. On the web your queue works like a collection of bookmarks, but on the PS3 it works like a playlist that you can only reorder online.


Hulu Plus does have a few nice features, but I think I can only recommend it if you have more than one good way of watching shows from the site, like I do.

I can use the PS3 to catch up on older shows or British TV, but for my regular USA Network quirky detective show fix, I’ll still need to keep my laptop handy. Also, I don’t think that Hulu Plus by itself justifies a PSN Plus membership, especially because I imagine that the service will have improved a good deal by the time the preview period is over.

How about you guys – has anyone else tried out the service? Do you have your own convoluted ways of watching web videos on your TV, or do you just find everything in the dark alleys of the internet and cackle to yourself while you torrent madly?

P.S. Anyone who says that $10 a month is too expensive if you still have to watch 30 second commercials has clearly never paid for cable TV. Get a job, hippies!

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Someday I will die under a pile of books, movies and music. Until then, I'll eke out my time spent in sunny Los Angeles, California by working on the Great American Blog Post.

5 thoughts on “Hulu: Plus… or Minus?”

  1. Great feature Jeff!

    I’m a bit disappointed, but not terribly surprised at their half baked version of hulu+. I don’t really like the netflix implementation as much on psn as xbl, so I wonder what hulu+ will look like on the 360 next year. Of course they’ll have all that time to see all the mistakes sony makes and correct them, so…

    I’m looking forward to see how this service evolves, and maybe you could do a follow up look when it’s on xbl in ’11.

  2. Yeah, thanks for getting a review of this up, Jeff. We’ve always talked about how Hulu on consoles will be a gamer changer. I feel like Netflix debuted on consoles with a great UI and lots of cool features, so hopefully Hulu will take some cues from them. But then again, there is a reason that Netflix is king of this kind of content delivery…

  3. Oh great I just read this whole review and I don’t even live in the U.S, but at least it doesn’t seem like I’m missing out on much, but I still wouldn’t pay for it.

  4. Netflix does it perfectly by grouping all episodes of one season together, and you can tell which ones you’ve already watched. I really don’t know why Hulu didn’t implement something similar.

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