Since launching in preview mode, Hulu has been continually adding more devices and content to woo subscribers to its invitation-only premium service. Now its Hulu Plus streaming-TV service has been opened to the masses.
In June, Hulu unveiled its subscription service that offers viewers access to full seasons of TV shows on a slew of devices. Hulu Plus costs $9.99 a month to watch shows whenever and wherever members want.
When the service launched, Hulu CEO Jason Kilar said Hulu Plus was the company's answer to the question of "What if your favorite TV shows loved you back?" He was careful to explain that Hulu Plus is not a Hulu.com replacement, but an ad-supported subscription product meant to complement the existing Hulu service.
"As we scale our infrastructure throughout the preview period, we want to open the service to a larger subscriber base," said Hulu Plus Product Director Rob Wong. "To make it easier for people to try out Hulu Plus, you no longer need an invitation to subscribe."
Hulu Plus subscribers get access to back seasons or full runs of some modern TV classics, including all nine seasons of The X-Files, all three seasons of Arrested Development, 10 seasons of Law and Order: SVU, and all five seasons of Ally McBeal. Kilar called it a "treasure chest in the cloud for TV lovers."
Over the past few weeks, Hulu Plus has added several titles, including new fall shows like Raising Hope, No Ordinary Family, and The Event, and back seasons of hit shows including Monk, Psych and Battlestar Galactica.
Hulu Plus has also added new devices. Subscribers can now stream the service to Sony Bravia 2010 TVs. Hulu Plus will expand to other Bravia devices in the near future, Wong said.
He added that in the next week, all Sony PlayStation 3 users with a PlayStation Network account, which is free, will be able to download and subscribe to Hulu Plus. This, he said, will also coincide with an updated PS3 application that incorporates some of the feedback the service has received.
Nothing Against Netflix
With Hulu Plus, subscribers can also go beyond the browser on a Mac or PC. Hulu Plus opens the door to watching programs on a television set -- if viewers have a Samsung Internet-connected TV or a Blu-ray player. Viewers can download an application from the Samsung app store and stream Hulu Plus directly to the TV. Hulu Plus is also accessible on Wi-Fi and 3G devices like Apple's iPad, iPhone 3GS, or third-generation iPod touch.
Still, Phil Leigh, senior analyst at Inside Digital Media, isn't buying. He was skeptical about the subscription model for Hulu Plus when it debuted -- and he still is.
"Hulu Plus opening the invitations is probably an indication that they don't have very many subscribers," Leigh said. "My guess is the next thing we'll hear is that they've reduced the price. They just don't have enough content. It doesn't compare at all to Netflix."