How HuluPlus and SyFy Lost Helix a Viewer

I don’t own a TV. I get my fix from internet TV providers – HuluPlus, some network sites, and until recently, Aereo.

Yesterday, in an effort to while away a couple hours, I tried pulling up the latest episodes of HELIX, a SyFy original show about some kind of contagion at the North Pole. I’d seen the first few episodes and it looked pretty cool, plus I follow/occasionally tweet with one of the guys responsible for making it.

I went to the Hulu page for HELIX and loaded it up, and added episodes four and five – which aired in January – to my queue.

Imagine my surprise when, instead of an opening commercial (because yes, even when you pay for HuluPlus, you get commercials) I got this:


I sent a couple annoyed tweets to both Hulu and SyFy, but figured I’d give it a day to resolve. So I went back this morning, clicked, and got…



A few problems with this.

1) Feb 6 is hardly “immediately after broadcast” for an episode that aired on 1/24.

2) The biggest selling point for using HuluPlus is that you can access shows the day after they air. Here we are almost two weeks later and episode 4 isn’t available yet? So I’m paying a monthly fee to access hundreds of hours of Korean soap operas and still have commercials in between acts, now? Er, no.

3) Why the HELL would Hulu Plus let me put this and a subsequent episode into my queue when they’re not available for viewing?

I could go on. But essentially this is some kind of bait-and-switch bullshit. I don’t subscribe to a cable provider because I watch my TV online. If I have to link a cable account to my already-fee-based Hulu Plus account, you know what suddenly becomes a lot less attractive? Paying for Hulu Plus.

Up to now I’ve been a defender of Hulu Plus, but with this kind of development I’m seriously considering cancelling.

This problem isn’t happening in a vacuum. If everyone will think back a week or two ago, you’ll remember the courts striking down net neutrality. You remember net neutrality, it was that thing that said that the companies that own the infrastructure of the Internet couldn’t slow down information sent from their competitors. You’d have to be an idiot not to see the connection between that ruling and the sudden lack of availability of quality programming via previously available channels (particulary in the case of Aereo, which suddenly started buffering every two seconds despite speed tests showing 10-14MBps download speeds and the lowest possible playback quality),.

Either way, I’m not wasting anymore time trying to get access. This is sad, because HELIX seems cool and I know these shows live or die depending on their audience numbers, but I’d rather watch independent web series or something on Netflix then have to keep checking back and being disappointed. If it makes the whole season and that goes to Netflix, maybe I’ll be able to watch it then. In the meantime, it’s time to seriously reconsider my subscription to HuluPlus and consider going with the unpaid version of the site: I may have to wait a week to see new episodes of shows I like, but at I’ll still be able to see them, and it won’t cost me 10 bucks a month.

While I hate to reward bad behavior, it may be that this sounds the death knell on my dedication to watching TV via the Internet. Then again, given that my alternative is Time Warner Cable, maybe it’s simply time to get out more.

12 responses to “How HuluPlus and SyFy Lost Helix a Viewer

  1. That is really bad selection and not worth the money. Even Canadian TV channels put out the new episodes online a day after airing and it is free.

    • Rachel / @girl_onthego

      I hyperbolize a little re: the content available – NBC, FOX and ABC (all of whom are stakeholders in Hulu’s business) all have their primetime stuff available a day later, and there are a lot of USA shows (also owned by NBC’s parent company) there, too. Which makes this even more bizarre, as the same parent company owns SyFy. But yeah – if I can still see those episodes a week later, or I’m going to have to network-site-jump in an effort to catch the shows I enjoy, paid Hulu loses a lot of its attraction as a streamlined site for television viewing. I like being able to access the back catalogues, but again…Netflix is a thing, and I haz it.

      Thanks for commenting, Iris – sorry your last comment got stuck in the spam filter but it should be posted now. 🙂

  2. Well, Hulu can either host it and we can watch the content with the commercials OR they can expect the content to be downloaded illegally by 99 percent of their target audience.v Demanding that we have some sort of cable tv agreement is so dumb and behind the times.

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  4. I agree that Helix is a very interesting series. Whatever new wars the psychopaths that run our countries plan to engage in will probably involve a biological weapon or some genetic manipulation of lethal viruses. .

    I miss Continuum, one of the few intelligent series. After all, with the NSA and all those in the anti-privacy, anti-democracy business, the future depicted in Continuum comes very close to what we are presently experiencing. If Continuum is not brought back, I will definitely cut back to only Internet access. I was very disappointed at SyFy’s decision to cancel Caprica, another really intelligent series. I understand that not many people watched Caprica’s marathon, but that was such a fascinating series. I am not into zombies, vampires or ghost stories.

  5. Rachel / @girl_onthego

    Hey Cassandra, thanks for commenting — and for bringing up Caprica. That was one of my favorite short-lived series in recent years, I really wish they’d given it more time to grow. Fantastic concepts.

  6. This is nothing new. Many shows from cable channels have a waiting period before they are available on Hulu Plus. This is always the case for a Syfy program. I am also annoyed when people complain about commercials on Hulu Plus, the same people never complain about them on cable or satellite for which they pay MUCH more. These are people who would find something to bitch about if they were paid to watch.

    • Rachel / @girl_onthego

      Hi Bob, thanks for commenting. What I was actually annoyed about at the time was that Hulu was promoting the episode as available when it wasn’t, and saying it would be available “shortly” for several weeks – if you recheck what I wrote I hope that’s clear.

      As for the rest, I wholeheartedly agree re: people being upset that Hulu Plus still features commercials. Commercial-free viewing has never been something the service claimed to offer, and what you’re actually paying for in that case is the ability to watch episodes the day after they air rather than waiting a week afterwards. My knock about paying to watch commercial breaks was more because Hulu was already not allowing me to watch something I *was* paying for, not a serious complaint about the service.

      • I guess I did come off as a bit testy although I really didn’t mean to be. I have not had cable or satellite service for several years although I do get my internet connection through TWC. I live in an area with good over the air reception and supplement local programming with a Roku puck.

        I find it to be very close to the a la carte sort of service we have been asking for from the cable and satellite providers for a long time and I do hear a lot of people complaining about Hulu when it seems to me to be a bargain. Where else can you get that amount of programming at such a bargain basement price.

        Actually, all three of my subscription services are reasonably priced, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime all run around $8 a month and I’m not paying for a lot of stuff I’m never going to turn on.

        • Rachel / @girl_onthego

          No worries. 🙂

          I have Netflix and Hulu, haven’t gotten on board with Amazon Prime (mostly because I haven’t wanted to drop $99 at one time, which is kind of dumb), and haven’t had cable TV in yeeeeears. I did try buying a reciever that would let me use my computer as a TV with DVR by picking up airwave signals, but either the program was faulty or else I just don’t get a good signal in my area, because it was a flop. I like Roku (A LOT), but since I don’t have an actual TV set I’m not sure I’d get the added benefit of it.

          • Rachel / @girl_onthego

            (And to clarify, I mean it’s dumb that I don’t want to drop $99 at once, not that the service is dumb – it’s good value for money which is why I need to get over my silliness and just sign up.)

  7. One word, Torrent!

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