I am not ashamed to admit my love for television. I sometimes consider myself to be a in a long-term, committed relationship with my “shows”. I especially love gabbing with my girlfriends about television’s most infamous characters (yes, I’m talking about evil Courtney from The Bachelor). I love everything about television except for reruns, those times when a presidential address cuts into the long-awaited season finale of my favorite show, and my exorbitant cable bills. The average cable TV subscriber pays almost three times what they paid for cable ten years ago, $128/month! Ask yourself whether it is really worth it to spend a whopping $1536.00 a year for your cable subscription. If you’re looking for an alternative way to catch all your favorite shows plus thousands of critically-acclaimed movies at a fraction of the price, then check out the Hulu Plus subscription service which costs only $7.99 a month.

Since you can get the basic Hulu service for free, many of you are probably wondering whether the paid Hulu Plus service provides enough additional features to justify its cost. Here are what I consider the advantages and disadvantages of Hulu Plus in the context of some of your other comparable alternatives: basic Hulu, home cable subscription service, and Netflix.

Advantages:

  • Mobile Access: The basic Hulu service only allows you to watch shows on your computer. With Hulu Plus, you also have the option to watch the service’s entire programming library on your iPhone or Android phone, iPad or Android tablet, Amazon Kindle Fire, Internet connected TV, or gaming console. If you have one of these devices, then this can be a huge advantage. Maybe you  commute to work on public transportation with free wi-fi—it would be pretty nice to be able to watch your favorite show on your iPad or Kindle while commuting. Since Hulu Plus has plenty of children’s programming and cartoons, this would be a good option for a parent looking for a way to keep antsy kids entertained. Also, some people don’t like the idea of watching TV on a small laptop screen or an even smaller tablet computer screen. But if you have an Internet connected TV or a compatible gaming console, then you can watch all your favorite shows through Hulu Plus on your normal TV. You can’t do this with basic Hulu.
  • Current Episodes and Full Series Runs: With basic Hulu, you will generally only have access to the last five episodes of the show that aired on TV. Hulu Plus generally will have every episode from the current season. Unlike basic Hulu, Hulu Plus has full series runs (all episodes from every season) of popular shows such as Lost and Law & Order. If you’re the type who likes to buy or rent an entire TV show on DVD, you will really enjoy this full series run feature. Watch out, though; it’s addictive to have 77 episodes of Prison Break at your fingertips. Netflix also has full season runs of many TV shows, but they often only have a few seasons available through their instant access program (which costs $7.99 a month) and then you can only get the remaining seasons through their DVD by mail program (which costs an additional $7.99 a month). Netflix has more shows, but it is more expensive and it can be a pain to have to mail in DVDs, wait for your requested DVDs to be sent to you, and then remember to return them.
  • Recent Content: Hulu Plus has contracts with NBC, ABC and FOX that allow them to post TV content within 24 hours of airing on the network. You won’t find recent content like this in Netflix’s library of TV shows.
  • Cost Savings: A year of Hulu Plus costs you $95.88. A year of cable will cost you on average $1536.00 a year. You’ll save a ton by using Hulu Plus, but it’s not cable. To save money you will have to sacrifice some features and content. It’s your call.

Disadvantages:

  • Commercials. Both Hulu Plus and basic Hulu have commercials, although Hulu Plus has less commercials than Hulu. On Hulu Plus, sometimes you will have the option of watching an extended three minute commercial prior to watching a 30 minute show. If you choose this option, it will be the only commercial. However, most of the time there are about six 30 second commercials interspersed throughout a 30 minute show. It’s annoying, but it’s not the worst thing in the world. I typically switch over to another tab in my Internet browser and peruse Facebook or a news website while the commercial runs. When I hear my show return, I switch back over. It’s hard to rationalize paying money to watch commercials on Hulu Plus, but then again, you’d be paying much more money to watch commercials through a cable service subscription. Even if you have DVR (which will run your cable bill up even higher), it’s still bothersome and time-consuiming to fast forward through commercials. There are no commercials on Netflix.
  • Doesn’t Have Content from Every Cable Channel. Hulu Plus does not have shows from every cable channel included  in your home cable subscription. Just to a name a few, you won’t find any HBO, Showtime, Discovery Channel, or E! Channel shows on Hulu Plus. So if you can’t live without Keeping up with the Kardashians or True Blood, Hulu Plus may not be the best option for you.
  • No Sports. Sports fan? If so, Hulu Plus may not be for you as it does not stream any sports events. You can watch past seasons of Friday Night Lights on Hulu Plus, but scripted football is no substitute for the real thing.
  • No Local News/Weather. You can’t watch your local news or the weather channel on Hulu Plus. Personally, I get all my news and weather information from the Internet, but there are many traditionalists out there who like to kick it old school with the 10:00 nightly news.
  • Bandwith Hog: It takes a significant amount of bandwith to watch shows on Hulu Plus (or basic Hulu or Netflix) on your computer. Unless you have a super computer, it will be tough to watch Hulu Plus while simultaneously downloading large files and running several other programs. Also, Internet tends to be a lot more fickle than cable service (my cable service only went out a couple times a year during bad storms, whereas my Internet service is always randomly shutting on and off for no apparent reason). If you’re watching a show and your Internet goes out for a second, it can be quite frustrating as you have to restart your show and re-watch an introductory commercial and then try to find you place in the show. This just doesn’t happen with good ol’ reliable cable.
  • Internet Data Caps: Your Internet provider might have data usage caps that you’re not aware of since you’ve never come close to hitting them before. If you stream a lot of TV on your computer (through Hulu, Hulu Plus, or Netflix), you could reach this cap  and your provider could cut your Internet off or charge you overage fees. This is especially true for students living in college dorms. Be sure to check into this before you start streaming. Same thing goes for your data plan on your Hulu Plus compatible mobile devices.
  • Movie Selection: Yes, Hulu Plus does have thousands of great movie titles in its library (which Hulu does not), but if you’re a film fanatic you’ll be happier using Netflix whose movie selection definitely trumps that of Hulu Plus. Netflix costs $7.99 a month for instant online content (limited library of titles) and an additional $7.99 a month for its DVD by mail program (full library of titles available).

Want to check out Hulu Plus for yourself? Now is a great time to try it out since Hulu Plus is offering a FREE 1-week trial subscription. If you decide to continue your subscription after your free week, Hulu Plus is only $7.99 per month, and you have the option to cancel anytime. Here's how to start your 1-week free trial:

  • Click Here to get started.
  • Enter your email address in the designated box at the bottom of your screen and then click on the green "Try It Now" button.
  • On the next screen, enter your email address, password, full name, gender, and birth date as well as your credit card information and billing address. When you are finished entering this required information, click on the green "sign up" button.
  • Pop some popcorn, kick off your shoes, and start watching your favorite TV shows. Remember to get some fresh air from time to time (television, especially when you have a whole season of episodes at your fingertips can get quite addictive).
  • Remember, if you do not cancel your membership before your free 1-week trial expires, you will be charged  $7.99 a month to continue using the Hulu Plus service.

If you cancel your subscription before your 1-week free trial period expires, your subscription will end immediately, and your credit card will not be charged. Here’s how to cancel:

  • Sign in to your account and go to your Account Page.
  • Look for the "Billing Information" section on the right side of your screen.
  • Click on "Cancel Subscription" and follow the prompts to confirm. When completed, you will receive an email confirming the cancellation. That’s all there is to it!