Hulu Plus is here, and you can color me impressed. The popular web video service announced this week a $9.99 per month subscription service that gives consumers Hulu access on multiple devices -- including iPad, iPhone, Samsung HDTVs and Xbox 360, just to name a few.
I've been testing the new service for a few days and it's everything I've been hoping for from Hulu -- it's fast, it looks great, and I can take it with me wherever I want ... as long as I have a Wi-Fi or a 3G signal, of course. It's about darn time that networks gave us more options for how we consume their content.
My tests for Hulu Plus included both the iPad and iPhone. The interface looks similar to what you'd experience at Hulu.com -- it's familiar and nicely laid out. Once you sign in you'll navigate around the menu the same way you do on your laptop. The search functionality is a bit weird -- tapping on the search icon brings up a huge gray empty screen. Come on Hulu, I know you can do something more with that screen. To be fair, it's a preview version of the software, but I'm hoping that wasted search screen won't be there when Hulu Plus is released to the masses.
I was anxious to test one of my favorite features of Hulu, the video quality. Back before Hulu launched, they put a ton of design into making sure that videos play well even with lower-than-expected bandwidth. I'm thrilled to say that after a few seconds of buffering, video plays without interruption on both the iPhone and iPad apps. Here's a short look:
It wouldn't be Hulu if you weren't offered a seemingly arbitrary choice of television shows and movies -- and yes even Hulu Plus seems arbitrary. Heck, at least they're consistent. Hulu Plus is supposed to have a full collection of back-episodes for your favorite shows but that's not always the case. In fact, one of my favorite shows, The Time Tunnel, is available at Hulu.com but not available on Hulu Plus. Go figure.
At $9.99 a month, I was hoping for a better selection of shows and more consistency. And I'm not alone in having a few complaints: Reviewers of the iPad and iPhone app have savaged Hulu for charging for the service while still choosing to run ads, for example. "They want $10/month to watch TV shows WITH COMMERCIALS included? No thanks!" reads one such review.
I'm not offended by the commercials. After all we pay for cable television with advertisements. Hulu says it was necessary to put the commercials in the service so they could charge less per month. But better selection would be good thing, in my eyes.
It remains to be seen if people will start ditching their cable boxes in favor of Hulu Plus, but it's a positive step in the right direction for content providers. They're finally learning that we want our TV shows wherever we are, on whatever device we have with us.
Will you pay $9.99 a month for Hulu? Let me know!
Clayton Morris is a Fox and Friends host and the tech godfather behind the Gadgets and Games show. Follow Clayton's adventures online on Twitter @ClaytonMorris and by reading his daily updates at his blog.