Continue reading " />

Tools Toys and Technology

About the Tools You Use and the Toys That Make Life Interesting

Tools Toys and Technology - About the Tools You Use and the Toys That Make Life Interesting

Netflix, Hulu and Hulu Plus

Copyright © 2012 Richard Beaty

In last month’s Tools, Toys & Technology, I started a series on Internet TV. That article discussed the hardware and infrastructure you need to stream TV programming to your big screen. This month, we start discussing programming sources, starting with an online “one-two punch” to your expensive, traditional cable/satellite provider. The combination of Netflix and Hulu will have you giving serious consideration to “cutting the cord,” firing your cable or satellite company and saving $100 a month.


Netflix was the pioneer in streaming movies and TV programming over the Internet. As a long-time Netflix customer, I first tried using their “Watch Instantly” service several years ago by streaming a movie to my computer, which was the only option when the streaming service was introduced in 2007. The quality was less than satisfactory, and sitting in front of my computer to watch a movie wasn’t really a relaxing experience.

Then came the Roku (discussed last month), the little box that receives streaming video from the Internet and delivers HD quality video to a television. This allowed me to watch Netflix streaming programming on my big screen TV from the comfort of my living room sofa. The number of titles available for streaming also increased to about 12,000. Granted, a lot of the 12,000 TV shows and movies are not things that I want to watch. But, there is plenty of good programming there to keep me paying my $7.99 monthly subscription fee.

Until recently, Netflix enjoyed the status of one of the most admired companies in the country. Then they made a series of bad judgments involving pricing and policies that seriously tarnished their image, and they lost a reported 800,000 customers in one month. They also were unable to come to an agreement with Starz Play, which supplies Disney movies and other popular content to Netflix. Another loss in the Netflix – Starz Play split that hits me where it hurts… some classic TV shows, like “Wagon Train” and “Gunsmoke” will be disappearing. Starz Play content will continue to be available on Netflix until the end of February, 2012. Then, it’s gone.

It spite of all the bad business news for Netflix, it continues to be the iconic supplier of streaming movies. I still have my Netfix streaming subscription, and I don’t have any plans to give it up. It’s a major source of content for Internet TV and a critical component if you’re considering “cutting the cord” and giving up your cable or satellite service.

Hulu and Hulu Plus

Where the primary focus of Netflix is on movies, Hulu is all about TV programs. Hulu comes in two “flavors”:

  1. Hulu – the free service that streams to your computer only, and
  2. Hulu Plus – the paid subscription that brings streaming TV to the living room big screen through Roku or the other devices I discussed last time.

There are other differences, including:


Hulu Plus

Current TV episodes Up to 5 recent episodes, delayed approximately 1 week from original air date All current episodes of many popular shows, usually available the next day after airing
Classic TV shows Hundreds of shows you’ll remember Hundreds of shows, incl. some full seasons
Movies Thousands of movies and documentaries Thousands of award-winning movies
Devices Computer only Computers, set-top boxes (Roku), game consoles, smart TVs, and more
Video Quality Highly compressed, some OK, some marginal to poor Quite acceptable; HD when available
Price Free $7.99 per month

Quite honestly, the number of shows available on free Hulu is nothing short of astounding, if you’re willing to live with watching on a computer with compromised quality. (By the way, in a future article I’m going to show you how to even get the free Hulu programming on your TV).

But for my money ($7.99 per month), Hulu Plus is the “missing link,” that in combination with Netflix makes it truly conceivable to “cut the cord,” fire your cable or satellite company, save upwards of $100 a month, and still watch most of your favorite shows, many in high definition.

Are You Ready to Cut the Cord?

Just how realistic is it to actually cancel all cable/satellite service and rely totally on the Internet for your television entertainment? Let’s consider the issues:

Price – Here there’s no comparison. My Dish Network ran me about $100 a month. Netflix and Hulu Plus together go for $16 a month.

Programming: Netflix and Hulu Plus – the One-Two Punch – I subscribe to both Netflix streaming service (no DVDs) and Hulu Plus. Netflix gives me movies on demand. Hulu Plus gives me current and historical broadcast TV programs on demand. Between the two, I have access to 90+ percent of what I routinely watched on Dish Network. Now be honest. Just how many of those 350 satellite channels do you actually watch? So, why pay for them?

No DVR – No Problem – I know, you don’t watch many live broadcasts anymore. You record them on your DVR and watch what you want/when you want. That’s the way on demand streaming works, too. The only difference is:

  1. You don’t have to pay that extra DVR fee every month, and
  2. You don’t have to worry about setting up the recording in advance.

Just go to Netflix or Hulu Plus, find your program, select the episode you want to watch, click on it, and sit back.

Try Before You Buy – If you enjoy your TV time as much as I do, you may be a little skittish about “cutting the cord.” Here’s how you can find out if this concept will work for you without actually cancelling.

Step 1: Try Hulu Plus for FREE – Get a trial Hulu Plus account free by going to: and clicking on the “Try Hulu Plus for FREE” link (upper right).

Step 2: Search for your favorite shows – Login to your new Hulu Plus account and search for your favorite shows. When you find them, select “Subscribe” to put them on your list of favorites.

Step 3: Watch Hulu Plus instead of cable/satellite – For the next two weeks, whenever you want to watch TV, watch Hulu Plus instead of cable/satellite. Select your “subscriptions” or “queue” for easy access to the shows you’ve pre-selected. And “surf” Hulu Plus for other shows you might enjoy.

Step 4: Cut the cord – If you find that you are getting your TV fix without using your expensive cable/satellite service, it’s time to say, “You’re fired,” and save yourself $100 a month.

More to Come

The plot thickens … While the combination of Netflix and Hulu Plus will form the core of your Internet TV programming, there’s more; lots more.

Next month I’m going to introduce you to my favorite Roku channels… all 35 of them. They include my Netflix and Hulu Plus paid subscriptions, and 33 more FREE ones!

And, I’ll introduce you to Amazon Prime Instant Videos, a rising star that clearly has Netflix in its cross hairs.

Then, a little later, probably in April, I’m going to open up online point-and-click access to over 100 free TV shows. Many of these include complete seasons worth of episodes.

In the meantime, don’t forget to give Hulu Plus a free try on