I finally got around to signing up for Hulu Plus on my Apple TV. And I have to say, it’s quite good. It’s hard to say whether its selection is any better than Netflix streaming but I’d bet most people really aren’t going to be choosing between the two. From my perspective, Netflix is better for older TV shows and movies, but Hulu is much better for newer television programs.
I’ve spent the past seven years without cable and have supplemented my media viewing by various means throughout the years — Netflix, podcasts, Redbox, *cough* BitTorrent. And, times have never been better for those of us that choose not to give their local cable provider any more of their money than they need to.
My current television setup includes DVDs and streaming from Netflix, iTunes media, recorded over-the-air television broadcasts, and the occasional viewing of TV shows uploaded by fans to YouTube. I have my entire DVD collection ripped to a media server in the closet of my office so that I can watch any movie I own whenever the mood strikes me. So, it’s not as if I am starved for content. For the most part, I’m satisfied with the media that’s available to me and don’t find myself searching for something to watch very often. But, those times do still exist and there are holes in my media setup.
There are some television programs that I miss, most notably Comedy Central content and cooking shows. Of course, I could always find the shows I miss through questionable means or watch clips of them on YouTube. But, these shows aren’t really the kind that you seek out. They’re more the kind of show that you catch bits of while your playing a card game around the coffee table or cleaning the house. They’re something you enjoy but mostly watch when you decide to turn to Food Network or HGTV when you don’t really want something on that’s going to steal all of your attention.
This is what I miss.
While Hulu Plus doesn’t offer a “turn it on and barely watch while you do something else” type of experience (which I hope someone is working on) it does help a bit with the type of content that I’ve been missing. The selection isn’t outstanding, like I wished it would be, but I imagine my interest in the shows offered will increase when new episodes of my favorite shows start airing in the fall.
There are some shows that I’ll enjoy watching — The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, America’s Funniest Home Videos, some old Abbott and Costello programs, etc. — but at the moment there aren’t a lot of “killer shows,” which, will likely change once new episodes start getting added as they air this fall.
The movie selection however, is a bit of a joke. It’s just filled with Disney movie rip-offs and terrible B movies that I didn’t even want to waste my time trying to watch. While perusing through the movie section the only move that I managed to find that I even recognized was Gordy (not a movie I’m exactly interested in watching). I appreciate that Hulu offers movies but without any compelling content, how in the world do they expect anyone to care about the movie offerings?
Hulu does show ads, which is fine. But, it’s been a long time since I was forced to sit through commercials. The ads aren’t too long, usually 20-30 seconds and there are generally only 3-4 per half-hour episode. The video quality on all of the newer television episodes is superb — you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between it and actual broadcast HDTV. But, the video quality is hit and miss with all of their library content, some of it is fine but others look like they were sourced from a VHS tape.
The navigation and user interface is exactly what you would expect on the Apple TV. Nothing out of the ordinary, just simple menus that are easy to navigate. I’ve begun to fall in love with favoriting shows and queueing episodes. These allow you to save your favorite shows as and queue episodes up so that you can quickly access them from the main Hulu menu. It’s incredibly handy if you’re like me and find yourself in the mood to browse through the catalog finding several videos that you might want to watch before going back into your “Favorites and Queue” to actually making your selection.
Overall I’m really happy with the Hulu experience on the Apple TV. I hadn’t spent a lot of time with Hulu before this and it was a great opportunity to test it out. I’m not sure if I’ll stay a member after the one week free trial, though. I’ll have to keep track of how often I actually use it before deciding to keep it around for the long haul. I’ve considered dropping my Netflix subscription down to one-DVD-at-a-time if Hulu is able to take up a decent chunk of my media viewing time. Like I’ve mentioned above, a lot of these decisions are really going to depend on how appealing Hulu’s catalog looks to me this fall when my favorite shows return. What I’ll likely do is cancel my Hulu subscription after the free week and then return in about a month to do some more testing. What I’ve seen so far seems compelling, but my final decision depends on the long term outlook of their media catalog.