As rumored, Hulu Plus is now officially available on the TiVo Premiere, and according to TiVo, this "further extends its lead as the only one-box solution that integrates in one easy-to-use user interface." We supposed this is technically true, but it depends on your definition of "integrates" -- we'll discuss why after the jump. Hulu Plus of course comes at a monthly premium, but the other news is that new TiVo Premiere owners will get the privilege gratis for six months, while existing Premiere owners get what is described as a "free trial" which we assume is the standard one month risk trial -- as opposed to the variety that doesn't require a credit card.
Love it or not, TiVo's interface has helped make it the best consumer DVR for over 10 years -- although much of the interface looks as old as the company itself -- so last September when we heard TiVo was integrating Hulu Plus, we obviously had high expectations. Since then we've seen Hulu Plus implementations on everything from TVs, to game consoles, to portable tablets, and we're sad to say the TiVo implementation is right on par. What we mean is that Hulu Plus on the TiVo is exactly like the others, and nothing like a TiVo. Launching Hulu via the TiVo My Shows menu is almost as jarring as switching inputs on your TV, with the exception of not switching remotes, obviously. The scrub bar changes, the menus are different, even the info view looks different. So while Netflix, Blockbuster, and all the other TiVo add-ins carry on the TiVo experience, Hulu Plus does not. Now we admit this complaint is mostly superficial -- the real failure is the lack of unified search, making TiVo Premiere's universal search feature not so universal. That's right, when you search for The Office on your TiVo Premiere with Hulu Plus, you'll see results from your DVR, the guide, Netflix, and Amazon VOD; but you won't see results from Hulu Plus. TiVo tried to reassure us by saying "we are working on integrating the content into TiVo Search and plan to update with that functionality soon after," but we have a bad feeling this will be right after the rest of the Premiere UI is converted to HD.
Unlike switching inputs though, you don't have to switch remotes, but in some ways it feels like you did. The transport buttons obviously work as expected, but hitting the TiVo or Guide button takes you out of the Hulu app without warning, which can be a real drag considering how long it takes to launch and the fact that the Hulu videos won't resume. Even more odd though is that the zoom button is the browse button.
All of this reinforces our biggest fear of the future of video entertainment; a world where every content provider has their own interface and we are forced to bounce in and out of countless apps to evaluate our viewing options. This is the opposite of our vision where we can watch whatever we want, whenever we want, on any device we want, using the interface that we want. What makes this hurt the most is that TiVo was one of the only companies that seemed to share our vision, even originally touting the Premiere as the device that can bring all your viewing options "together into one unified and simple experience." So while the Hulu Plus experience is every bit as good as it is on TVs and other set-top boxes, it isn't as integrated with the TiVo Premiere experience nearly as much as, say, Hulu Plus is integrated with the Xbox 360 Dashboard.
If you were just hoping to get Hulu Plus on your HDTV without buying a new TV or another set-top, mission accomplished, but if your hopes were for a truly integrated media experience, you'll have to keep searching and waiting.
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Hulu Plus Launches on TiVo Premiere
Adds Instant Streaming of Thousands of Hours of Current TV Hits and Classic Programming to TiVo's Unique Solution Combining Cable Programming with the Best of Web Entertainment
ALVISO, Calif. – May 23, 2011 – TiVo Inc. (NASDAQ: TIVO), the creator of and a leader in advanced television services, including digital video recorders (DVRs), for consumers, content distributors and consumer electronics manufacturers, announced that beginning today Hulu Plus™ is available via subscription* to TiVo® subscribers with retail TiVo Premiere boxes.
In celebration of Hulu Plus on TiVo Premiere, TiVo and Hulu will give six months of free Hulu Plus service to newly purchased TiVo Premiere DVRs. A free trial of Hulu Plus is also available to current TiVo Premiere customers. Visit www.tivo.com/hulu to learn more.
With the recent addition of hit shows from Comedy Central, and MTV including The Colbert Report and The Daily Show alongside popular hit shows from ABC, FOX and NBC like Modern Family, Grey's Anatomy, Glee, Family Guy, The Office and 30 Rock, TiVo further extends its lead as the only one-box solution that integrates in one easy-to-use user interface the full complement of programming made available to users through their existing cable or fiber optic provider alongside the ever-increasing choice of broadband and on-demand offerings.
"Hulu's mission is to help people find and enjoy the world's premium video content when, where and how they want it. To that end, we are thrilled that today we are opening up the Hulu Plus experience to TiVo Premiere users," says Andy Forssell, SVP of Content Acquisition and Distribution for Hulu.
Hulu Plus joins other top broadband content providers such as Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Instant Video, and BLOCKBUSTER to offer TiVo Premiere subscribers the ultimate choice in entertainment programming, all easily accessed by TiVo's elegant user interface and iconic peanut remote control. Hulu Plus programs are easy to find by title or by browsing Hulu Plus's network listings and genres.
TiVo's SVP and General Manager of Content Services and Media Sales Tara Maitra added, "I've watched with great admiration as Hulu has built an impressive business by offering up some of the world's greatest entertainment content on demand. As the world's first smart DVR, TiVo Premiere brings the best entertainment from cable and the web together in one place, with one easy-to-use remote and simple search features for one truly Brilliant TV experience."
According to recent figures from Santa Monica, Calif.-based research firm Interpret, the number of people who said they streamed a TV program increased to 41 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010. The number of TV programs streamed per respondent reached nearly nine episodes in the last three months of 2010, up 37 percent from 6.41 programs streamed in 2009.
In addition to the top hits of today, Hulu Plus offers one of the largest catalogs of television content on a streaming platform to subscribers in the U.S., including full series runs and numerous back seasons of dozens of classic shows like The X-Files, Law and Order: SVU, Arrested Development, Saturday Night Live, Miami Vice, Ugly Betty, Quantum Leap, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Roswell and Ally McBeal.
*Separate subscriptions to Hulu Plus and the TiVo Service are required to access Hulu Plus on TiVo Premiere DVRs. Broadband connection required to access Hulu Plus.