Dear Hulu: I like you and all, but why are you so confusing?


Does anyone else find Hulu confusing? I don't mean from the point of view of its interface or playing content, but in terms of figuring out what you can watch where.

It used to be that we had Hulu and Hulu Plus. While that in itself was confusing it was a useful distinction. Hulu was the free service that you could use on a computer and Hulu Plus was the subscription service that you could use on devices (tablets, smartphones and streaming boxes).

The distinction was due to the fact that Hulu gets different licensing deals for different content. Some content it can only show on the web. That content was on Hulu. Some content it can only show on devices. That content was on Hulu Plus. And then there was content it could show anwhere; the content was on both services.

Not too long ago Hulu dropped the Hulu Plus name. As far as I can tell, nothing else changed except now the free service on the web was called Hulu and the paid service on devices was also called Hulu. The change, Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins told AdAge was to 'erase confusion.'

Maybe it's just me but I think having both services use the same name is more confusing. (By the way Hulu, your app on the Xbox One is still called Hulu Plus; probably true on other devices as well.)

It used to be that you could go to to see the shows available on devices, but no longer. Instead now you'll see a line of text that says "We currently don't have the rights to make this show available on your TV or mobile devices" in the summary of shows available on the web but not on TV.

In other words instead of showing us one list of what we can watch, we now have to check each show individually to see if we can't watch it. Of course this all goes away if you're browsing on a TV or tablet but for those of us who tend to plan our viewing while at the PC the current situation is not ideal.

Earlier this week things got more confusing. Variety reported on a deal  between Hulu and Pluto TV that would let Pluto distribute Hulu content. At first blush this sounded great for Hulu fans since Pluto does have apps for some devices (Fire TV, Chromecast, iOS and Android tablets and phones among others). Maybe we could finally get all of Hulu's content on our devices?

Of course that was too good to be true. What Pluto TV actually got was the ability to show Hulu's web-only content on Pluto's web-interface. In other words instead of going to to watch a show, you can go to and watch it. What's the point of that? Good question. I suppose to fattens up Pluto TV's offerings and exposes content to Pluto web-viewers.

So now you can subscribe to Hulu and watch some stuff on your TV, or watch some other stuff on without subscribing, or you can go to to watch that same stuff that you could already watch at And of course then there's the stuff you can watch anywhere. What?

Don't get me wrong, I like Hulu. I'm a subscriber and there're days when I'm lazy enough that I'll watch something on Hulu that I've already recorded on the DVR just because I'd rather watch Hulu's fairly light load of ads rather than fast forward through the 10 ads per commercial break on the cable TV version of the show I recorded. I just wish they'd make it easier to know in advance what I can watch where. I think I'd be a more consistent user if I knew in advance that a show was going to be available when I sat down in front of the TV.

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