10 ways hulu is better than a DVR

I’ve been using a DVR for at least 8 years. I started off with a Replay 2020 and have since used other Replays, TiVos and cable company DVRs. Now my primary DVR is the whole home DVR that comes with AT&T’s u-Verse service.

DVRs have transformed the way I and many others watch TV. Besides breaking news and sports, I rarely watch live television.

But less than a decade after their inception (and before they’ve reached 50% penetration) they’re headed the way of the dodo, vinyl and cassette tape. The DVR’s kissing cousin — placeshifter Slingbox — will have an even shorter life.

The reason: Hulu. Here are 10 reasons why Hulu is better than a DVR:

  1. It’s free. DVRs typically cost $10-$15 a month for service. For a TiVo, add $150-$600 in hardware costs. Many people can use hulu to ditch their cable TV subscription altogether and save $60-$75 a month.
  2. You don’t have to program it. Sure, programming a DVR is a lot easier than programming a VCR. But it still takes work. And with 300+ channels, a lot of scrolling. Most DVR UIs are atrocious. While Web interfaces can make things easier, AT&T’s interface (powered by Yahoo! and recently redesigned) feels like Web 2004.
  3. You don’t have to manage it. A lot of the UI on a DVR is devoted to managing conflicts among recordings, managing recording space, etc. Many a user forum has been devoted to identifying the logic behind what gets recorded and deleted on DVRs. I just know that on my AT&T DVR, things don’t work the way I’d expect. (e.g. deleting programs I’ve watched before deleting programs I haven’t watched.)
  4. It’s infinite. You have access to thousands of TV shows and movies, way more than a DVR can hold. That’s only going to expand as programmers recognize the power of hulu and television on the Internet.
  5. You don’t have to know what you want to watch beforehand. If you hear about a program you’re interested in, you can go to Hulu and watch it.
  6. It has fewer ads. For many people, skipping ads is a big part of the appeal of a DVR. But it’s still a hassle. You have to pick up the remote at the right time and you usually end up watching 7-10 seconds of ads anyway because things don’t line up right. I’d rather sit through one 30 second ad. This isn’t bad for advertisers or TV networks either. (More on that later.)
  7. It helps you discover. Hulu recommends shows you might be interested in. Most DVRs don’t. (TiVo is a notable exception.)
  8. It’s social. You can share programs that you like with your friends on social networks.
  9. Your shows won’t be screwed up due to cable system outages, storms, power outages or a football game that goes long.
  10. It’s searchable. As a search geek, I’ve been impressed with the quality of Hulu’s search interface. They’ve made it easy to find content you want.

There are some advantages that DVRs have over hulu. I’ll write about those later. In the meantime, check out my list of ways to improve hulu.

About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is an analyst focused on the intersection of local, social and mobile. He is a principal analyst at reDesign mobile. Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. He blogs at http://blog.agrawals.org and tweets at @rakeshlobster.
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9 Responses to 10 ways hulu is better than a DVR

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  3. Michaelc says:

    Hulu is only free if you consider your time to be worthless. Besides timeshifting the main function of DVRs is to ff past ads. Hulu eliminates that option. Right now there are not that many ads on Hulu, but you know they will ramp them up as soon as they get enough viewers.

    Remember, when cable TV first came out there were no ads because you paid to have the cable service, which offset the lack of ad revenue until some bright guy said “lets charge them and force them to watch ads!”

  4. The big difference between advertising on hulu and advertising on television that can be skipped with DVRs is that hulu can personalize the advertising and have a lot less of it.

    They’re not doing it yet, but they can when they get bigger.

    I once tracked how many ads on a TV show were relevant to me. For many shows, not 1 of the ads was relevant. I should not be seeing ads for feminine hygiene products, mobility scooters for the disabled or lawn mowers. These ads provide zero value to me as the viewer and zero value to the advertiser because I will never buy their products.

    Broadcast TV can’t personalize to the individual. hulu, in theory, can.

    I don’t mind watching ads that are relevant to my needs. I just hate watching ads for things I’d never be interested in.

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