August 30, 2010
When Hulu released its universal Plus app in July, we were concerned about its $9.99/month price tag. However, after using the app since then, I've come across its hidden gem: original programming. You might recall that up until this summer, Hulu provided web-based (and free) content from various different content providers. Users visit the Hulu website (PC or Mac) and are able to view episodes of Lost and the Emmy-winning Modern Family, for example, in stunning clarity. When Hulu Plus was announced, Hulu significantly changed its business model. Rather than offering all of its content for free, Hulu Plus users pay for premium content. For example, through Hulu Plus, users can view ALL episodes of Lost, not just a select few. Since the Hulu website is Flash-based, Hulu Plus was made available for iPhone/iPod touch and iPad users through a free app. You can also access it through the Hulu website on PC or Mac. What I like most about the app, however is its availability of original content. Central to this is Simon Fuller's unique series, If I Can Dream. The series follows would-be stars living together in an L.A. mansion. It is available exclusively through Hulu. Fuller is the producer of Fox's American Idol series. You can also follow the series 24/7 through its website. Unfortunately, since it is limited to Flash users, the site itself isn't available on mobile Apple devices. Until last week, I'd never heard of this series. However, thanks to my Hulu Plus subscription, I've become instantly addicted to it and I am making my way through the show's first 26 episodes. The series is available for free at Hulu.com. However, with the Flash-based limitations, it is only available on Apple devices through the Hulu Plus app. For me, this show alone is well worth the $9.99/monthly subscription. It's really up to the individual viewer to decide if Hulu Plus is worth the price of admission. After all, Netflix, for example, offers similar programming options. However, I consider the service's potential in providing original programing its biggest strength and the best way to distinguish it from its competitors. Sure, its easy to make the argument that Hulu is trying to play it both ways. Mobile users have to pay for much of the content that is readily available for free on the Hulu website. Still, if Hulu provides more original content and limits access to it through its Hulu Plus model, it could be onto something. Hulu is jointly owned by ABC, Fox Entertainment and NBC Universal. The Hulu Plus app is available for free in the App Store.