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Hulu Plus exits closed beta, will accept your business now

By Rob Pegoraro

Hulu Plus is still a "preview," but you no longer need to wait for an invitation to try the video portal's $9.99/month premium service. Hulu ended that requirement yesterday, as noted in a blog post.

Now that Hulu will take your money, should you hand it over? Hmm.

hulu_plus_ipad.PNG

If you've been consistently frustrated by your inability watch Hulu shows, movies and clips on an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad, paying for Plus ends that annoyance today. (Its iPad version appears at right.) The service also works on some Samsung HDTVs and Blu-ray players, 2010-vintage Sony Bravia HDTVs and Sony PlayStation 3 game consoles.

Other devices remain stuck at the "coming soon" stage of support: older Sony sets (including my 2009 LCD), the Xbox 360, Vizio HDTVs and Blu-ray players, TiVo digital video recorders and Roku Web-media receivers. It would be a mistake to buy any of these things expecting to have Hulu Plus switched on next week (as one reader apparently did, to judge from the e-mail I got yesterday).

At some point, Hulu will also let users of Google TV devices watch shows at the site by paying for Plus instead of blocking their standard-issue, Chrome-based browser. That suggests there will be an Android Hulu Plus app as well--but with this often-uncommunicative site, who knows?

Hulu Plus's 720p high-definition feed, an upgrade over the free site's standard definition, will become more of an attraction as it becomes available on more devices that either connect to HDTVs or are high-def sets themselves.

Hulu Plus's selection is a different issue. The Los Angeles-based site (owned by NBC Universal, News Corp., the Walt Disney Co. and other investors) advertises access to a far more extensive library of TV content, and sometimes that's true.

For example, on Plus you can watch the entire season of a current show, instead of just the last five episodes. Its catalogue goes much deeper as you go farther back in time: You can catch up on all 200 episodes of "The X-Files," none of which are available on the free site.

But on devices that can't handle Flash video, such as the iPad, Hulu Plus leaves out shows hosted on other sites that the free site indexes and links to, such as CBS's "CSI" and Comedy Central's "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart."

Don't forget that paying for Plus still leaves you watching ads inserted in episodes, even if they're shorter and fewer in number than what you see on regular TV.

Hulu's management needs to work on these issues--and think about cutting the price of Plus to $5 a month, as some reports have suggested they're considering--before taking the "preview" label off Plus.

But Hulu also has two larger issues to deal with. My top two suggestions:

* Stop blocking people who use the "wrong" browsers. I get the economic bargain in paying for Plus access on devices that, like my HDTV, can't play Hulu video on their own and instead need an additional app (even if a one-time fee for that app would be fairer). Repeatedly locking out people who use standards-based browsers that merely invite use from couch distance is a waste of time in the end. (To whoever at Hulu is charged with breaking their site in this manner: Admit it, you have the most degrading Web-development job outside of phishing and malware work.)

* Promise, signed in blood, that no viewer will be shut out of the site for paying the wrong company for a telecom service, as happened last month when Fox Networks briefly ordered Hulu to take away Fox shows from anybody using Cablevision for Internet access--even if they actually paid another firm for TV service--during its carriage dispute with that cable operator.

What else would you put on a to-do list for Hulu? Post your requirements in the comments--then stop by my Web chat, from noon to 1 today, to talk shop about the site and any other tech topics on your mind.

(11:13 a.m. Corrected an oversight in the paragraph about Hulu Plus's access to video hosted elsewhere.)

By Rob Pegoraro  | November 5, 2010; 8:43 AM ET
Categories:  TV, Video  
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Comments

If HULU would offer full integration into Windows Media Center I would defiantly get it. HULU Desktop is OK, but the controls don't work right with a WMC remote control.

Posted by: bigfodee1 | November 5, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

If HULU would offer full integration into Windows Media Center I would defiantly get it. HULU Desktop is OK, but the controls don't work right with a WMC remote control.

Posted by: bigfodee1 | November 5, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Why do American broadcasters and content providers continue to insult a major portion of their market - Canadians? We are so sick of seeing the dreaded "not available in your area". Even Hulu Plus isn't available to us. Second class citizens, or what?

Posted by: panamacanuck | November 5, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

As someone who has Netflix also, I still enjoy Hulu for newer shows and the ability to stream on other devices.

With that said, for the price Hulu is asking....the commercials are annoying and a flat out joke

I recently quit Hulu b/c of the commercials which are 30-45 seconds long WHILE I am paying $10 a month

Does Netflix? No way

Posted by: Bious | November 5, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Want to sell me on Hulu? Provide an inexpensive, brute simple way to watch their programing on my TV. I watch very little content on my computer.

Posted by: dontsendnofarkingspam | November 5, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

$10 and you still have to watch commercials? Forget it.

Posted by: slar | November 5, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

I'm OK with the $10/month as long as it's commercial-free. I use Hulu all the time I and I feel the total amount of time spent watching commercials per show has increased significantly in the last year.

It would also be cool if Hulu Plus members could watch their shows anywhere in the world. For anyone who travels overseas a lot, that "Sorry we can't show this to anyone outside the US" warning is annoying, and finding a proper proxy to get around this is a pain.

But, yeah, everything about Hulu Plus is great except for the commercials. Fail.

Posted by: mcs37 | November 5, 2010 6:05 PM | Report abuse

Why do American broadcasters and content providers continue to insult a major portion of their market - Canadians? We are so sick of seeing the dreaded "not available in your area". Even Hulu Plus isn't available to us. Second class citizens, or what?

Posted by: panamacanuck

--------------------

It's not that Canadians are second-class citizens; it's that they are not citizens at all in America. In case you didn't notice, there is this thing called a border, and the laws on one side aren't always the same as the laws on the other. The rights to TV shows in Canada are entirely different, and it's probably more the fault of Canadian TV companies that shows are blocked out than it is of Hulu.

Of course, Canadians don't have much right to complain. During the Vancouver Olympics, every second of competition in every sport was streamed online in Canada. In America, we typically only got the digested selections of certain sports and, depending on the event, not even always that, even online. But should Americans have complained to Canadian television stations about this state of affairs? No. The fault was with American networks like NBC who tied up the rights and would have sued Canadian Broadcasting silly had that online stream spilled over Canada's borders.

Posted by: blert | November 5, 2010 7:00 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately Hulu Plus doesn't carry full seasons or even more episodes for some shows over the free Hulu. I found ABC shows to be the biggest culprit of this. It was enough for me to cancel my Hulu Plus subscription after 1 month.

Posted by: redskins5926 | November 5, 2010 11:57 PM | Report abuse

You gave us a list of players that won't received Hulu, but no mention of Apple TV. So, what about it??

Posted by: manv | November 6, 2010 12:03 AM | Report abuse

I like Kindle. Which one do you like? iPad or Kindle? http://bit.ly/c7AGfT

Posted by: harryjose6 | November 6, 2010 2:13 AM | Report abuse

To "blert":
Canadians are citizens in America. As are Mexicans. Oh, yeah, and of course, we in the 50 United States. North America includes Canada and Mexico, not just the US.
And South America has a whole lot more countries, like Brazil.
See Wikipedia for further elucidation on what it means to be an American.
It's another sign of a typical US citizen's myopia that we think we're the only Americans.

Posted by: versus1 | November 9, 2010 6:43 PM | Report abuse

To "blert":
Canadians are citizens in America. As are Mexicans. Oh, yeah, and of course, we in the 50 United States. North America includes Canada and Mexico, not just the US.
And South America has a whole lot more countries, like Brazil.
See Wikipedia for further elucidation on what it means to be an American.
It's another sign of a typical US citizen's myopia that we think we're the only Americans.

Posted by: versus1 | November 9, 2010 6:44 PM | Report abuse

Versus1 I think you didn't understand what Blert was saying. There was no sarcasm or disrespect in his post. It is corporate & various Countries laws that impact broadcast across borders. Greed first and foremost.
True enough all are Americans by geographic location but only one has the title in the Country name "United States of America". You should not be so paranoid and judgmental of all Americans.
It really is that simple. I suggest you contact the government and rally to change wherever you live to include the word America in its proper heading. It would be nice to see "Venezuela of America" or "Canada of America". Do you think that will happen?

Posted by: stovehouse | November 10, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse

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