Netflix Made My Switch to Hulu Plus Easy

Unless you’ve tried really hard to avoid tech news, you probably know that Netflix made two big announcements within the past few weeks: 1) it’s splitting up it’s DVD-by-mail and streaming media businesses and 2)┬áit’s splitting up it’s DVD-by-mail and streaming media businesses.

The first time it made the announcement, it was just a price increase. If you wanted to have both services, you had to pay much more whereas previously you paid one price for both. The second time it made the announcement — get this — audaciously as an “apology” for lack of foresight for the consequences of the first announcement, it announced that not only where both services separate, more expensive prices but also that both services would be run now as independent companies with no integration.

What that means for the consumer is two separate accounts, two separate websites, two separate passwords, two separate places to rate your movies and get recommendations based on those ratings, etc. etc. In some ways, one might argue that this is a blessing in disguise. I mean, imagine if Comcast split it’s infamous bundle into three separate companies (phone, TV, and Internet) with a price increase for each. What would your first reaction be as a consumer?

I can tell you what mine was with Netflix: “It’s time to shop around.” I’ll still be keeping the Netflix DVD-by-mail service. (I’m not even going to try and type it’s new name, it’s faster for me to type this long sentence explaining that I have to look up the spelling of the stupidly named new company every time I want to mention it in writing.)

Netflix’s DVD service has the biggest catalog of “almost-on-demand” shows and movies I’ve ever found. And I’m generally willing to wait for something in the mail when it comes to older, eclectic content that I might want to watch.

But now that the streaming service is a separate company that offers no integration with the Netflix DVD service (a major competitive advantage that Netflix chose to give up), Netflix streaming no longer has my complacency to thank for me not looking elsewhere by default. You see, I was a loyal Netflix fan (for years) and just assumed that the company had it together and was better than alternatives out there.

Loyalty goes a long way. I was never that impressed with the Netflix streaming selection, and I had quality issues as well. (I pay for extra fast Internet and still had trouble getting HD to stream, after switching ISPs and making several 3-way calls between Netflix and my ISP with each side blaming the other, I never did get it resolved fully.) Now that Netflix is getting rid of most any reason for me to preserve my loyalty, it was time to look around. Enter Hulu Plus.

Hulu Plus costs $8 per month and is a Netflix streaming competitor that focuses on current TV shows. Another key difference is that it still includes some very limited advertisements that interrupt your TV watching experience. But after a weekend of playing with it, I haven’t had any issues streaming HD, and I’ve found the selection much better as compared to Netflix.

I’ve largely ignored Hulu (blogged about it back in 2008) in terms of usefulness for me personally because it always felt like an “online only” media experience. And I rarely, if ever, use computers or mobile devices to watch anything more than short clips. When it comes to real TV or movies, I prefer sitting back on my couch and looking at the big screen. Lucky for me, Hulu Plus makes that possible (as did Netflix) via nicely done integration with my Xbox 360.

In short, thank you Netflix, for trying so hard to destroy my loyalty toward you. As it turns out, it was keeping me from something that is a much better service for me.