July 31, 2012

Hulu Plus Lands On Apple TV

Michael Harper for - Your Universe Online

Apple TV just got a little more awesome. Today, Apple oh-so-quietly added support for Hulu Plus to their Apple TV hockey puck box, giving subscribers to the video streaming service one more reason to love Apple´s little hobby that could. Of course, Hulu Plus has long been a part of other set-top box services, such as Boxee and Roku, but that´s another story for another time.

The icon for Hulu Plus simply appeared on user´s screens today without so much as a software update. Now, those who subscribe to Hulu´s premier streaming service can watch their favorite shows just as easily as watching Netflix, MLB.TV or any other content they´ve purchased from iTunes. Apple also includes third-party support for the NBA, NHL, YouTube, Wall Street Journal Live, and Vimeo.

Hulu Plus is a $7.99 per month subscription service which not only allows access to the catalogs of Fox shows, such “Family Guy” and “Glee,” it also allows users to watch back episodes of NBC shows, such as “30 Rock” and “Parks and Recreation.”

iPhone and iPad users have already been able to view their shows on these devices, however AirPlay streaming has been disabled for the app. Subscribers to HBO Go have had similar restrictions placed on their devices.

Many have anticipated Apple TV to be the key in a cord-cutting strategy, allowing networks and other entertainment providers the ability to simply create apps for their content. By creating specific apps for specific networks or shows, users would no longer have to subscribe to bloated cable packages in order to watch the one or two shows they´re actually interested in.

As it stands, Apple TV is the closest thing Apple has given us which resembles Steve Jobs´ “I´ve cracked it” comment. Its AirPlay feature is incredibly handy, but it has its limitations. For instance, certain apps– like HBO Go or Hulu Plus– have been able to exclude the AirPlay technology from their apps, placing further limitations on what customers and subscribers can do with their streaming content. If AirPlay were allowed to fully function as a one-stream-fits-all player, it could greatly cripple many in the entertainment industry.

Apple´s most recent version of their OS X operating system has AirPlay streaming baked right in, allowing for a direct mirroring of your Mac´s screen to the Apple TV. For now, any user with Mountain Lion can stream video content from some sites, such as Hulu, to their Apple TV, though it´s yet to be seen if these streaming providers will find a way to block this functionality from their streams.

Something else of note: Hulu Plus now allows users to tie their subscriptions to their iTunes account, meaning users can now subscribe through Apple and iTunes. Apple, of course, gets to take a small cut from each subscription. Netflix recently added the same subscription model, causing many to wonder if Apple is taking further steps not only towards the cord-cutting model of individual apps for individual networks, but also taking steps towards using iTunes accounts as a form of mobile payments.

As it stands, the things the Apple TV can already do make it a killer device. The possibilities of what an Apple TV COULD do, however, make it revolutionary, and at just $99, it´s almost a no brainer.