Posts Tagged ‘Apple TV’

Hulu Plus Is a Minus

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

I have grown weary of broadcast television. I’m not sure exactly when it started, but I think the realization that a one-hour TV program contained about 18 minutes of advertising might have been a contributing factor. Wasting almost a third of my TV watching life by way of commercials is crazy.

My favorite medium for watching television programming these days continues to be the Apple TV. The Apple TV gets me crisp, commercial free television shows for around $1.99 per episode ($2.99 for HD, but I’ve not found that to be worthwhile for TV shows – some movies yes, but not TV series).

$1.99 isn’t really that expensive, but I’ve kept my eyes out for lower cost Internet-based video programming options. I’ve tried Netflix, but found the streaming to be too temperamental, resulting in lots of chunky low-resolution video. I had also tried, which had full episodes of a number of TV shows, albeit with short commercial interruptions strung out during the show, which I found annoying.

Hulu Plus - "More" of a lot of things, some not so good

Hulu Plus - "More" of a lot of things, some not so good

So, when I got notice that I could participate in the new Hulu Plus service, which promised a much greater selection of programming, as well as iPad support, I figured I’d give it a try.

I used a special link, had to enter credit card information so I could have the privilege of paying $9.99 for my first month of use, and got my Hulu account upgrade to Hulu Plus.

The very first thing I discovered is that, contrary to my expectations, Hulu Plus does nothing to remove the annoying commercials in the shows they offer. I tried several different programs, and all included “Limited Commercial Programming” (according to the voice over and notice when you first open a show in Hulu Plus). Strike One.

I decided to try and bull through past this annoyance, and chose to watch “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution”, a six-part series about British Chef Jamie Oliver and his effort to get the most obese town in the U.S. to eat healthier.

I managed to get through the first two episodes using the free iPad Hulu Plus app, and found the quality of the video and audio pretty decent for streaming video. However, when I started watching the third episode – about four minutes into it, my iPad screen suddenly went blank and featured an ominous start-up Apple logo. I tried for several minutes to get the iPad to respond in some fashion, frantically perusing support sites, but after about 10 minutes the iPad came back to life on its own. Figuring it was just a random, rare quirk, I restarted the show I was watching in the Hulu Plus app only to have the iPad crash, again, at exactly the same point.

This time, however, the iPad did not come back to life after 10 minutes. I was about to attempt a full restore on the iPad (that would have sucked) when it regained its senses – half an hour after it crashed.

The best I can guess is that the Hulu Plus app went into some sort of crash loop and finally worked its way out of the loop before crashing back to the iPad home screen.

Properly written software should not effectively disable a computing device as thoroughly as Hulu Plus tanked my iPad. Strike Two.

I went and reported the iPad crash to Hulu as well as complained about the incessant advertising. I must say they were prompt to respond, although I really didn’t groove with the answers.

Here’s what I heard back about the advertising:

Thanks for writing, and I certainly understand where you’re coming from. I’d like to take a minute to explain why we have ads in a subscription service.

The ads on Hulu Plus allow us to keep the monthly price of the service as low as possible while offering a broader, deeper selection of content. While we understand users may want to pay for an ad-free experience, we aim to bring you a higher quality of content with a minimal amount of ads. If you’re watching Hulu Plus on a TV or mobile device, the ad experience for each device should be optimized for quality and effectiveness. We hope you find that the ad experience on Hulu Plus is similar to our classic Hulu service: much lower than what you’d experience while watching normal television.

I don’t want normal television anymore, so I don’t compare Hulu Plus to normal television. And I’m really not interested in an optimized and effective “ad experience”, thank you very much. I want a “no advertising experience”, and I’d even be willing to pay a bit more for that if the content available was broad enough.

And regarding the crash:

Thank you for your email. I’m sorry to hear you’re having problems with Hulu Plus on the iPad. I fired up the iPad here in the office and forwarded to the spot in the episode of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. I tried it a few times and I wasn’t able to replicate the error you are seeing. I’m streaming over wifi – were you streaming over wifi as well or 3G? Also, have you tried watching the show again since the two times you got the error?

Let me know what you find. I look forward to your response.

Very responsive, but I’m a bit gun shy about using Hulu Plus on the iPad, and I really don’t care to watch Hulu Plus on my PC, even the one in the living room attached to the TV, because of those darned commercials. (And, for the record, I was using WiFi and didn’t fast forward to the point of the crash, but instead let the show rerun from the beginning.)

I didn’t want to wait for Strike Three, whatever it might turn out to be, so I cancelled my Hulu Plus subscription a few minutes ago. Maybe when Hulu Extra Plus with no advertising comes out for $14.99 or even $19.99/month, I might reconsider.

For now, I’ll let Hulu Plus share the “advertising experience” with someone else.