When you look around the world today, you will notice that in some cases, you actually end up paying more for less. Just look at the supermarket, for example. You pay more money for items that have less fat, calories or sugar by default, and of course you pay more for the convenience of having foods wrapped up in smaller packages for individual portion control. The world of technology is sometimes like this as well. With more and more people “cutting the cord” from their local cable company or one of the national satellite television providers, many people are going back to over the air antennas (in which the technology and number of channels has increased dramatically since the 1950s thanks to HDTV and digital subchannels), and using services such as Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime for their daily doses of television.
These types of services are exactly where this article is heading towards. Yesterday, Hulu announced that they are going to be starting a brand new service plan. While you can watch some programming on the service for free already, many people subscribe to the Hulu Plus plan, which for $7.99 per month you can get access to a variety of TV shows from all eras, and have them stream to your television set, computer or mobile device. I usually compliment my television habits (as one that is in the process of cord cutting) with Hulu, mostly to watch some shows that I haven’t seen in a long time, as well as some movies on occasion. The price is decent enough for what they offer, but the one complaint that I always had with the service was that your shows were always being bombarded with commercials. An ironic part is that the shows that they provide that originally aired on PBS, a channel that does not have any traditional commercial interruptions over the air, are also broken into to show advertisements.
Apparently and without surprise, I am not the only one that has had this gripe, and chances are high that it is because of these gripes that Hulu has launched a brand new offering called the “No Commercials Plan”. This new plan would allow you to watch most (but not all) of the television series and motion pictures in their library without those pesky commercials. On the TV series in which commercials will still be played however, the ads will only play at the start and at the end of an episode, with a 15-second pre-show and a 30-second post-show. The program that you then wanted to watch would thus not be interrupted at designated points during the shows runtime. The programming that this is affected by in this new tier, which all come from traditional broadcast networks, are “New Girl”, “Scandal”, “How To Get Away With Murder”, “Grey’s Anatomy”, “Once Upon A Time”, “Marvel’s Agents Of Shield” and “Grimm”.
Now here’s where the entire “pay more for less” comes into play. Currently, the traditional Hulu Plus service (which is now called the “Limited Commercials Plan”), costs a subscriber $7.99 per month with the advertisements interrupting a program in play. The new tier that has been introduced by the company will cost the subscriber $11.99 per month, an additional $4 per month, or $48 per year. The question that comes into play, is should this new type of a plan really be necessary? Back in the earliest days of pay television, there was one thing in common of the era: If you paid for TV, the only advertisements that you would see were for shows that aired on the channel. You didn’t have commercials for weight loss pills, overpriced lawyers or items of technology that you had no interest in. As time went on however, it became commonplace for all pay television networks (which believe it or not, includes cable channels) to generate more revenue by airing commercials. This is something that we should all be used to by now, to the point that we take it for granted. But for some reason, online streaming services are always getting called out for it, even though technically we were doing the same thing when we paid for cable or satellite TV. But now that this is considered the norm, the questions are, does it make it right, and what made them decide to offer this new tier in the first place?
In my humble opinion, the answer to the first question is unfortunately yes, for the reasons that I just explained. We are a victim of our own desires and wants. We paid for advertising on pay television before we cut the cord, and we will continue to pay for programming with commercials for years to come. It’s only the distribution method that has changed. Of course, people are still willing to spend a little money if they can save more in the long run. Why pay the cable company over $100 a month just for television service alone, when you can pay $8 and have access to many of the programs that are available that a particular customer would be watching anyway? Even with the cost of high speed internet, it’s still a dramatic savings. But why now offer a higher monthly fee to have no interruptions? It appears to me that the reason that such a pricing option is available is not to get people to actually upgrade their service, but to keep those that have the current service happy. What do I mean by this, you may be asking? Think of it this way: Many of us that subscribe to Hulu Plus were complaining that we are paying for programming and still have to deal with commercials. With the new tier in place, we would now not have a right to complain about that anymore, because the option is technically now available. Some subscribers may have considered dropping the service at one point because of the many commercials, which on average occurs about 3 times during a “half hour” program. But now, by Hulu offering a non-interruption model, this would take away some of the complaints, since we COULD have no interruptions, we just choose not to pay for it.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am sure that many people will be making the leap to the new “no commercial interruption” model. On a personal level, I have to vote against it. Maybe it’s because I don’t have anything better to do, or maybe it’s because I can’t imagine spending more for less. (And isn’t that the primary reason that most people are cutting the cord to begin with; to save some hard earned cash?) If the programming is still going to be the same, I personally can handle an interruption from time to time. After all, it’s what we are all used to by now.