Commercial-Free Hulu Is Here*

Hulu just overcame one of its two biggest shortcomings in launching an ad-free tier. Whereas the Hulu we know and rarely love runs $8/month, the new offering clocks in at $12/month. I’m certainly willing to pay more for video streaming without commercial interruption, but I wonder if Hulu is 30% better than Netflix – which runs $9/mo for new customers. Sure Netflix has lost EPIX to Hulu, but they’re firing on all cylinders in regards to producing compelling original content and exclusively licensing some hidden gems. Beyond advertising, Hulu’s second significant shortcoming has been a large number of incomplete series/seasons. Not sure how the catalog looks these days but, given this new subscription option, I’m finally willing to take a look. Just as soon as the incoming TiVo app update hits…


37 thoughts on “Commercial-Free Hulu Is Here*”

  1. Down with Xenu!

    The Lawler post says this was long-rumored, but I had zero idea in was even under consideration.

    I have no choice but to sign up immediately. I really have no use for almost all broadcast / basic cable shows, but there are exceptions. It’s probably worth my while solely to get season 3 of The Americans without paying a-la-carte or waiting however for it to get to Prime. And I was just about to buy season 1 of Mr. Robot a-la-carte, which pays for 2 months of a sub by itself. (Both shows seem to have all episodes.)

    But that’s not even the real attraction for me. Hulu has the Criterion Collection, and it has exclusives on a lot of foreign/art films that I really, really want. For example, very few Jean-Luc Godard or Louis Malle films are available outside Hulu at any price, (other than on disc). But tons of them are just sitting there on Hulu. And that’s not including a lot of other foreign gems. And that’s not including the various Hollywood classics / oldies too. Criterion is a treasure trove for me, and I’ve always resented the way Hulu had locked up many in streaming exclusives, since I don’t do non-skippable ads.

    Jeebus. This is a really big deal from my POV. If I weren’t an NBA junkie, and if the MSO pricing weren’t designed to discourage it, I could actually see us canceling our cable sub for the first time. This beats the hell out of the service Apple wants to offer, but will never be able to…

  2. Chucky, you’ve just lost all credibility. How can you choose streamed Criterion over Blu-ray… ;) Not that *I* have a problem with it.

    Same deal here on Mr. Robot. I only recorded the last few episodes. Wonder if Hulu has the whole season?

  3. “I wonder if Hulu is 30% better than Netflix – which runs $9/mo for new customers … but they’re firing on all cylinders in regards to producing compelling original content and exclusively licensing some hidden gems”

    I think they’re really complementary. No one is going to touch Netflix on the broadness of its ‘hidden gem’ movie collection. And no one is going to touch Netflix on their old TV show collection. Similarly, no one is going to touch Hulu on current broadcast / basic cable series.

    But being the picky viewer I am, I’m not willing to second the “firing on all cylinders in regards to producing compelling original content” w/r/t Netflix. I haven’t watched BoJack Horseman yet, though folks I trust seem to love it, and so I will get around to it. I was pretty underwhelmed by Orange Is the New Black and gave up quickly. And after that? Pickins get incredibly slim, to my picky taste. (Hell, I even think Showtime has better original programming than Netflix.)

    “Beyond advertising, Hulu’s second significant shortcoming has been a large number of incomplete series/seasons.”

    It’ll be interesting to see how that goes. Never subscribed to Hulu before, so I have no idea how bad that is. But since I can only currently think of two teevee shows there I want to watch, and since they both indicate complete seasons, even if the rest of the teevee show catalog is a mess of missing, I’ll still be fine until I get tired of the Criterion Collection and cancel, which should take a while.

  4. “Chucky, you’ve just lost all credibility. How can you choose streamed Criterion over Blu-ray… ;)”

    Price & convenience. I do buy and rent Criterion Blu-rays, but assuming Hulu can stream at Amazon-level quality, I’m still happy to take advantage of the price & convenience aspects for many titles. Good enough. (And I’ll still have to buy/rent the discs where I really want the commentary tracks, just want permanent ownership, and/or want that ultra tasty PQ.)

    “Same deal here on Mr. Robot. I only recorded the last few episodes. Wonder if Hulu has the whole season?”

    According to my reading of the site, it’s definitely all be there. I was literally going to spend $25 on it at Amazon as soon as I finish up Show Me a Hero in a few days. (SMAH is good stuff, BTW.)

    “So this is some BS…”

    Meh. It’s 7 shows out of a zillion that had pre-existing licensing commitments. And I strongly assume it won’t apply to shows going forward. A potentially spotty catalog of missing episodes seems far more like BS to me.

  5. A few notes: That thing about having to watch a 15 sec ad before and a 30 sec ad after the show even on the new “No Ad” plan applies only to seven current TV series. Something to do with the licensing deals for those specific shows. (No big deal in my opinion as there’s no interruption once the show starts.) And unfortunately, Mr. Robot is available via Hulu only for streaming on a computer web browser, not through a TV or mobile app. I had thought about watching it a few weeks ago but doubt I will.

    Hulu is definitely on an upswing now. With the Epix deal, Hulu will actually have some decent recent mainstream flicks to watch (although those films will still be on Amazon Prime too). And Hulu is just getting started cranking out original series. Nothing much yet, IMO, but I do plan to check out the Stephen King limited series “11/22/63” early next year. No, they don’t have the breadth and depth of Netflix but an ad-free Hulu can charge more because of all the current programming. Try getting a basic cable subscription with an HD DVR for $12 a month with no contract. (Or for that matter, basic cable plus Showtime and an HD DVR for $21 a month.)

    I like my TiVo Roamio OTA quite a lot. Bought it this spring on that secret $300 with lifetime service special. But I have to say, if I were in the market right now, the new ad-free Hulu + Showtime option would make me have second thoughts about going the TiVo route…

  6. True story… I was the first guy on the block (or in the dorm, as the case may be) to own a DVD player. And I’d tell my local video rental shop (Bloomington, IN) which DVDs they should order – got at least one Criterion LD->DVD transfer into their catalog.

  7. For clarification, when I said “basic cable subscription” above, I meant the very lowest tier (I think Comcast calls it “lifeline”?) which basically just gives you your local channels and maybe one or two actual “cable” channels.

  8. “Mr. Robot is available via Hulu only for streaming on a computer web browser, not through a TV or mobile app.”

    Huh. Now that’s some BS.


    There’s some quite confusing wording when I look at the Mr. Robot details. It indicates that MSO authentication is required for playback. But I can’t figure out if MSO authentication is required for any playback, or just for playback on TV / mobile.

    Being an OTA guy, Tim, you could clear this up by seeing if you can playback without MSO authentication in a web browser. If you can as an OTA guy, then it would seem to strongly indicate to me that MSO authentication would enable playback on TV / mobile. (But even if you don’t want to bother, I’ll figure it out for myself soon enough when I subscribe for The Americans and Criterion.)

    But regardless, all that fine print is a BS concept.

  9. Actually, I had authenticated my Hulu trial subscription with my parents’ DISH account awhile back just to see what it would do. So when I originally checked on Mr. Robot, the fact that I could even stream it on my Mac was because I had authenticated. I just de-linked DISH from my Hulu account and now Mr. Robot isn’t available to me at all.

  10. And Dave, about that last line — is there really a new (looooong overdue) Hulu app for TiVo that will soon be released?

  11. “Soon” is a relative term when it comes to TiVo… but there are indications something is being worked on.

  12. “I just de-linked DISH from my Hulu account and now Mr. Robot isn’t available to me at all.”

    That’s a real drag. So, with Hulu BS like that, the price/value equation for me decreases significantly. I’m still going to have to pay $25 for Mr. Robot a-la-carte.

    Unlike with Netflix, I guess I’ll be a frequent subscribe/cancel kinda guy with Hulu. Binge on Criterion for a bit, cancel, and repeat every so often…

  13. This Mr Robot nonsense is likely because the show is still airing. I assume once it is off the air and after some exclusivity period it will be available on all platforms.

    In unrelated to Hulu news, I have Xfinity and access to the entire season via Tivo ondemand. I downloaded the series via torrentleech anyway after watching the first episode ondemand and being subjected to watching the colony previews 3 freaking times during the same show without the ability to ff/rew. If this doesn’t show just how content restrictions drive piracy, I am not sure what will.

  14. Yeah, I was at a pal’s house this weekend… who had his Roku hooked up to his pal’s Plex collection. And boy was I jealous with all these first run movies he had listed that I can’t even rent for $6 if I wanted to. Related, very happy to see Amazon Prime video downloads coming to iOS. That could come in handy.

  15. “This Mr Robot nonsense is likely because the show is still airing. I assume once it is off the air and after some exclusivity period it will be available on all platforms.”

    Well, sure. But that was part, (but not all), of my initial attraction to ad-free Hulu.

    Get Mr. Robot and season 3 of The Americans without having to wait 6 months to a year after the run is done.

    “If this doesn’t show just how content restrictions drive piracy, I am not sure what will.”

    Of course, instead of stealing content, you could just buy Mr. Robot a-la-carte, like I’m doing. No restrictions against doing that. Or you could record it and do manual comskip. No restrictions against that, either.

    (Back before a-la-carte was nearly as widespread as it is today, I did a far amount of torrenting myself. But these days, there is far less excuse other than that you want to save money by stealing. It’s not about restrictions. I’m not judging, just sayin’. I still do some very occasional torrenting myself for out-of-print stuff, but again, that’s because I don’t have a non-stealing option.)

  16. Not to jinx it, but I finally upgraded to a Roamio after my old Tivo died, and so far the Hulu content has no ads (it sort of looks it does when you have a working ad blocker, occasional interruptions for the ads but no ads and it just immediately reconnects and starts the program again). My older Roku still shows the ads.

    Even if that weren’t true, no chance in hell I’d pay extra to get rid of them, but as it stands now I don’t have to. ;-)

  17. “Wait until you get hit with a 90 second Scientology spot… you’ll be ready to pay double for ad-free.”


    I’m worried that you are so much more concerned by a Scientology ad than a McDonald’s ad.

    The only conclusion I can reach is that you are infested by disincarnated Thetans. This greatly disturbs me. I’d be happy to help you to “clear” yourself of Thetans. All that’s required is a small payment for the first course of treatment. Then we can gradually proceed down the path of fully clearing you of any Thetan infestation. In addition, I can absolutely promise you that this will greatly help you in your Hollywood career.

  18. “Speaking of which, I still gotta catch that HBO documentary.”

    Good stuff. I record essentially all of the HBO documentaries by manually doing my Monday night scheduling. (Since I’m already doing HBO Sunday night manually, Monday is an easy-peasy step on the TiVo.) Some of the docs take me more time to get around to watching than others, but they’re pretty much all worth a vidi.

    I’m not joking. If we set my NBA junkie-dom aside, I value HBO original programming as being equal to all the other teevee original programming put together.

    (If Xenu offered breakfast all day, we’d all be willing Sea Org ensigns. BTW, while Going Clear is good stuff, and well worth a vidi, The Master is actually better. And still on Netflix!)

  19. So is Hulu still 720P and stereo audio? If so then it isn’t worth $8. And certainly not worth $12. They need to upgrade the quality to what other streaming services are offering. 1080P with 5.1 audio.

  20. “So is Hulu still 720P and stereo audio?”

    Huh. Seems as if it is. I learn something new every day. And from a quick googling, it seems as bandwidth fulfillment (which is more important that 720 vs 1080) lags far behind Amazon.

    The more I’ve learned about Hulu in the past 24 hours, the worse it seems…

  21. Hulu’s picture and audio quality must be targeting the mobile/tablet crowd. Am I the only guy who streams to a larger screen with and a decent 5.1 system. The higher higher price should also include better picture and sound quality. Sorry Hulu, no sale.

  22. Chucky, the last couple of things I tried on Hulu were in stereo while they have were 5.1 on other services. And the quality still looked like 720p. But I did not check the bitrate to verify.

  23. “Content is King,” says Sumner Redstone. Hulu has just about every highly acclaimed, award winning, popular, and moderately successful British TV series (and often all series) that aren’t available on either Amazon or Netflix. Hulu’s (and Amazon’s) PQ and sound always superior to Netflix, at least for all the stuff I’ve streamed, and it ranges from being moderately inferior PQ and sound to profound. Hulu was the only place one could view The IT Crowds final episode, not even released on DVD/Blu-ray in the UK, let alone the USA. I could go on, but the point is that for all of Netflix’s popularity, the vast majority of their offerings are OLD crapolla that I and others have already seen quite a while ago with only its original content being fresh, while Hulu’s large library of foreign offerings represents FRESH to us or FRESH programming with short turn arounds from the UK, for example, along with other countries such as Australia.

    Hulu seems to have much more offering in Closed Caption with Amazon next, and Netflix dead last on Closed Captions, and I need the CC.

    The only PITA was Hulu’s interruption (especially during Miranda) of, most often, a single 30 second commercial. While I hardly noticed on some content, such as “The Internet is Coming,” it was very jarring during Miranda.

    While I may not commodore the higher non-commercial rate for all, only because the commercial is most often a single 30 second spot and then only two or three times in some programs, it does represent value for those who come to depend upon Hulu’s exclusive library of material never before seen here in the US, and even an old UK show like Green Wing is real discovery of a FRESH to us jewel not offered at Netflix or Amazon.

    I subscribe to all three, Hulu for the reasons above, and Amazon with an investment in the Fire Tablet along with its fairly fresh movie offerings and its own Original productions (good that I can view SOME Amazon content, probably only Prime, on Android devices without having to go through hoops) while Netflix represents the expendable streaming service I would cut off first. No question, Netflix’s model of commercial free subscriptions for all was a huge plus, but, frankly, I’ve already seen the Netflix content, so even at the higher non-commercial Hulu rate, Hulu represents the better value: I don’t watch much at all on Netflix, but I’m most often at Hulu and Amazon. Of course, others have different tastes and preferences, but I am now starting to hear from family and friends who have had Netflix for a few years go from Netflix fanboys to bemoaning that Netflix has way too much old stuff with the original productions being the only compelling content today.

    We will see Netflix and Amazon adopt their own non-commercial rates as Hollywood starts to demand more and more money for their “King” content to streamers; it is inevitable. I guess we will all have to re-examine our steaming services on that day.

  24. “While I may not commodore the higher non-commercial rate for all”

    Commodore! Dunno if it’s a malapropism or poetry, but HarryKerryJr, you’re my hero.

  25. Hulu changed the free trial from one week to one month, so I signed up for ad-free.

    And good god. I then spent two hours down a rabbit hole adding tons of Criterion movies to my TiVo (via kmttg) without even really getting too deep into the catalog. Hells bells. It’s an endless treasure trove.

    So, I already know audio is not up to modern standards, which actually doesn’t concern me too much considering that most of the Criterion movies were originally recorded in stereo anyway. And while I also already know that video is restricted to 720, that doesn’t concern me, as opposed to bit-rate and fulfillment reliability concerns, which as noted above, don’t seem to have a good reputation. Next up, I’ll see how that it all translates into real-world PQ as compared to Amazon’s high-quality fulfillment…

  26. “Mr. Robot?”

    My name is “Chucky”, not “Mr. Robot”. Nobody calls me “Mr. Robot”, as I’m a human, and I speak and move in a human-like manner. Domo arigato.

    (I’m not spending all that money on the free month-long trial for Mr. Robot. I’m spending all that money for Criterion and season 3 of The Americans. Mr. Robot is an Amazon a-la-carte purchase.)

  27. Weird. My last comment doesn’t appear here, but it did show up in the RSS feed, so it didn’t go to Akismet. I’ve seen this happen intermittently on your blog before, and not just for my comments.

    But, through mysterious magic, merely posting another comment on the thread (like this one) will suddenly make that missing comment show up. Like I say, weird.

  28. “Hopefully just a transient caching thing, because I really don’t feel like troubleshooting.”

    Don’t troubleshoot. It’s reasonably rare, and not much of a big deal in the first place. Just noting it.

  29. Sweet Buddha. The Americans season 3 isn’t there either.

    So, at least my Limited Perspective Theater, Hulu is entirely the Criterion collection. Nothing more, and nothing less. Definitely not worth $12 / month on an ongoing basis, though I’ll probably keep my subscription for a month or two past the free trial. There’s a helluva lot of a good stuff there. And as long as I happily watch 3 movies per month or more, it’s cheaper than a-la-carte rentals. (Not to mention that most of these “notable and important” movies aren’t available a-la-carte at any price.) When I fall below that threshold, I cancel.

    As far as QoS, it’s a bit of mixed bag. Sound is a known issue, but as stated, not much of an issue as the Criterion films were made back in the day of stereo and mono. PQ is a bit stronger than I’d worried; definitely not up to Amazon PQ standards, but still “good enough”. (And I’m not just comparing old Criterion masters. I watched a very recent film I’d already seen on Amazon, and the PQ noticeably was softer on Hulu.)

    The biggest QoS issue had to do with the TiVo app / Hulu fulfillment. The app takes notably longer to launch than Amazon or Netflix. And once you’re in the app, launching your video takes notably longer to start than Amazon or Netflix. Plus there is an inexcusable glitch in the TiVo app that always requires you to launch/exit/re-launch the app if you haven’t remember to do multiple remote clicks to officially “stop” the video you were watching when you exited the app.

    The sad thing is that if the Criterion collection were a separate OTT app, and priced at somewhere around $7 / month, I’d probably subscribe year-round. Same deal if the WatchTCM OTT app were available in the lean-back on any platform, which it currently is not, and showed in HD. I’d pay even more than $7 / month for that.

Comments are closed.