Time to cancel cable, thanks to Hulu & YouTube

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Last summer when I was first introduced to Hulu, I thought it was a nice service. There were a few movies on there that my kids enjoyed, some clips of TV shows I had once found amusing, but for my taste it was definitely lacking.

I’ve been a Netflix customer since 2001 (You can add me as a friend here). Naturally, the service is more appealing to me; the DVDs come and they go back when I feel like it. But Netflix changed the game when they offered up Watch Instantly. Suddenly, we were hooking up our laptop to the TV so we could watch the available movies & TV shows.  Last fall, when Microsoft enabled Netflix on our Xbox 360, we saw no reason to keep our bloated cable package.  We still have our basic cable +HD tier, but we’ve scaled back our other packages losing HBO, Starz, IFC and Encore; the movie channels we’d watch on those rare times we turned on the TV to zone out. But since the only show we actively watch on TV is LOST, anything else flies under the radar. (Sidenote, we never actually sit down to watch LOST when it’s on, instead we watch it on the DVR about 30 minutes to an hour after air time. Even if we didn’t do that, we could still watch LOST on ABC.com the next day.)

These past few days, I’ve had the pleasure of checking out Hulu. If you’re subscribed to me on FriendFeed or have clicked the FriendFeed tab above, you’ve seen the recent Hulu clips I’ve posted. (You can also subscribe to me on Hulu if you’re in the US and have an account.) Yes, the site is still a headache to navigate, but if you take the time to go through the genres available, you’ll find a lot of gems.  One feature I’m in love with on Hulu is the embed feature. On Friday, I took the movie Jesus Christ Superstar, narrowed down to the song I wanted and embedded that clip into my Tumbler blog.

I used to rely heavily on YouTube to show my kids clips of old TV shows I used to watch. On YouTube, the quality of these old show clips are usually quite horrible.  Last night, I pulled up several Sesame Street clips that I’ve watched on YouTube and was amazed at the high-quality of the clips.  Even comparing movies available on Hulu versus movies available on Netflix Watch Instantly, Hulu wins out with the better quality video watching on the same computer. Piping Netflix through the Xbox 360 as a Time Warner Cable customer leaves a lot to be desired. The video quality is on par with watching an old VHS cassette on a VCR taking its last breath.

With Netflix you’re paying monthly, naturally that means no ads.  On Hulu, short ads (30 seconds) are interspersed throughout the episodes or you have an option of watching all the ads at once and then have uninterrupted play.  You can also vote on the ads, which makes viewing them a little more tolerable. The ads you rate down, don’t get shown any more. The ads are so non-invasive that I’ve never even bothered to count how many times you get interrupted during a show. Unlike say, watching ABC.com, where the ads are way too long, and you have that 15 second – 30 second buffer at the end of each 1 minute bank of ads. I can not speak to YouTube’s ad policy on their Shows page, as I haven’t witnessed any ads during the short test periods.

YouTube recently announced its Shows page. The genre breakdowns mirror Hulu’s and most of the content available on YouTube is also available on Hulu.  Running on my netbook, where a Hulu show can take about 13 seconds to load, YouTube shows take about 2 minutes. The only appealing thing YouTube has that Hulu doesn’t is a Foreign movie section, with automatic subtitles. That means, for me several full-length Bollywood classics. This works for me because I often rent them from the local Indian markets and the quality of the DVDs are often bad.  Some of the same Bollywood movies are available via Netflix Watch Instantly, but then we’re back to the quality, and yes YouTube offers better quality than Netflix in this case too.

Between Netflix, YouTube and Hulu, I’m hard pressed to find a valid reason to keep my cable. It seems the only reason I have it, is so that the kids can watch their shows and my husband can watch the HD channels in the wee hours of the morning. Sure, there are bonuses of cable, such as the ability to let the kids watch OnDemand in our bedroom, streaming music from MusicChoice, even though we use Last.fm or Pandora more often than we play our physical albums. Right now, having cable is the only thing keeping our internet bill low, but that’s becoming more and more less valid as a reason. After all, why pay for something we’re not using?

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  • Can't remember the last time I watched something on television.
  • Bob
    You don't want to cancel cable because you can watch these shows on the Internet. Cancel because, since they started broadcasting in digital, most of you no longer need cable, FIOS or Satellite to get a crystal clear picture.


    Stop paying to watch commercials. Get a digital tuner. Get an antenna. It's all different now. You'll be surprised what's out here for free over the air.
  • stumbled :)
  • God I love LOST....and too watch it on abc.com unfortunately I have not figured out the whole hooking the laptop up to the TV yet....
  • I have been back and forth with this, leaning towards canceling but I am afraid that we won't have Fox Soccer Channel among others.
  • We are almost there. The value prop for a bloated cable package is just not there any more. The sooner the cable cos. realize this the better off everyone will be. I just hope that the cable cos. dont jack up net prices to offset dwindling revenues on the TV side. That would suck.
  • I agree with you sean ...
  • I agree. Right now I'm paying $59/month for broadband. If I cancel my cable, that will go up to almost $80/month. I'm current playing $92/month for our basic+HD tier cable and internet. That's a touch choice for us since the difference is negligible.
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