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July 07, 2010

Hulu Introduces Their New Pay Service: Hulu Plus

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Woman relaxing and watching television

The money people have finally had their way with Hulu.com. Hulu Plus, a pay version of the free TV, video and movie website, has officially been launched, and it is available in beta version by invitation only.

Here's how Hulu Plus works: for $9.99/month, subscribers will have access to current episodes of popular TV shows, but they will also have access to complete seasons of shows such as Desperate Housewives, Glee, 30 Rock, and Grey's Anatomy, and older shows like Law and Order: SVU, Ugly Betty, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and X-Files.

On the up side, you'll be able to take your Hulu Plus HDTV shows everywhere. It will eventually be compatible with the iPhone, iPad, Sony PS3, Xbox 360 and some Internet-connected Samsung televisions and Blu-Ray players. There are a couple of sticky catches though. If you're a fan of hits like CSI, The Good Wife, Survivor or NCIS, you'll be out of luck because CBS hasn't jumped onto the Hulu bandwagon.

Hulu is partially owned by News Corp, Disney and NBC Universal, and that's why the site is chock-full of ABC, NBC, and FOX shows. There are reports that now that Hulu has a pay subscription service, CBS is more likely to get on board, but nothing definitive has been announced and some are saying those reports are premature. Especially since CBS's chairman Les Moonves has implied in the past that because of its roster of hit shows, CBS is better off without a Hulu partnership. The next catch is that you'll be paying $9.99 a month, but you'll also be subjected to ads in the same way that you pay for A&E as a basic cable channel that also airs commercials.

Hulu's CEO, Jason Kilar explains why:

For our end users, we’re offering them the most convenient way to access their favorite shows, on devices they love, in high definition, at a fair price. For our advertisers, who allow us to keep our Hulu Plus price low with the support of ad revenue, we offer one of the world’s most effective advertising platforms, with the ability to speak effectively to users across a variety of devices, anywhere they happen to be. And finally, for our content partners, we offer revenues that compensate them fairly for bearing the cost of producing the shows we love.
Hulu Plus could be the beginning of yet another major shift in the media world, very much like how the growth of iTunes helped change the face of the music industry. As Julia Boorstin of CNBC.com wrote in an article on the announcement:
This changes the game in terms of mobile content distribution — making Hulu a player like Netflix, whose free app for subscribers has been a huge hit on Apple's platform. The big question is whether Hulu's loyal users decide to pay the ten bucks a month? And will Hulu drastically scale back how much content it offers for free?
Green Tech Girl isn't so sure Hulu Plus is worth the price. She writes,
I’d consider paying $9.99/month for no advertising and a huge selection along with high quality streaming, but I certainly wouldn’t at Hulu’s current level of service. They are promising HD quality for the extra fee ... which would be enticing were it not for the fact that half the time my Hulu videos are as jerky as webcams were back in 2002, and I often manually lower the video quality to try to improve the streaming experience.
And Esmeralda at Sarcastic Gamer.com says that $9.99 Hulu Plus subscription fee is only the beginning. She explains,
For those of you that own both an Xbox 360 and a PS3, don’t go jumping onto the PSN store just yet to subscribe. If you thought you could get away from paying a $50 down payment somehow for all this, you’re sadly mistaken. It turns out you’ll need Playstation Plus to subscribe to Hulu Plus just like you’ll need an Xbox Live Gold membership for it.
I'm a big fan of Hulu and have been since it was launched. I love its gorgeous interface and its simple-to-use design. But will I pay $9.99 a month for Hulu Plus? Not yet, but I'll be watching how it develops very closely.


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