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.