When Did Internet Streaming Really Go To Hell?

I don’t actually have an answer for the title question, by the by. Just contemplate it more like an old fart sitting on his porch complaining about “Them kids and their devil music.”

But seriously. I’ve been with Netflix for years, and until this last year, they were pretty good. 8 bucks a month and I can watch everything I want and oh, what’s that, there? Oooh, more biblical documentaries? Oh, man! They have all the Star Wars movies! Disney Time! Paranormal reality shows? SWEEEEEEEET.

Yeah. Was grand, I tell you. Then, over the last year, most of that stuff has gone byebye, with very little of value to take it’s place. Sure, Supernatural and My Little Pony are still there, and sometimes you get a special about the Shroud of Turin or something… But I felt like I was getting less and less of what I wanted for my $8/month. Then they e-mail me to tell me the price is going up. “Well, okay,” I say. “Maybe they’re using that extra money to upgrade the library.”

Nope. Nope. Nope. One hundred times nope. Instead they yanked a few more of my favorites and replaced them with more crap.

“Time to check alternatives,” says I.

So I looked into Hulu, and my eyeballs ruptured. Splattered everywhere. And not in the “OH MY GAWD THIS IS GREAT!” way, but in the “Dear Jesus who the hell designed your interface?!” way. Mind you, this was on PC, on their site. Their search engine was similarly godawful. Their selection was better, sure… But good luck actually finding what you wanted to watch.

Since then, I’ve lost that computer so I have to access it on the tablet app. Which, while being a little easier on the eyes and better for searching, has a whole slew of it’s own problems.

First off… There’s bloody ads. Ads. Really? I’m sorry, I thought my money is what made this show run. Now, that may just be the entitled little shit in me, but I don’t get drowned in ads every 8-10 minutes over on Netflix, now do I? Hell, I don’t even get them that frequently on YouTube. And at least when I do, I don’t get stuck with 3 60 second ads one after the other without the option to skip or anything. That’s kind of ridiculous.

Which brings me to my next issue. When I discovered that the Netflix iOS app let me watch my programs in PiP mode, I was ecstatic. Brilliant! It even kept rolling into the next episode for series-based content. Awesome! So I could be plugging away on a manuscript or scrolling through Twitter while Sam & Dean traded witty banter or Bob Ross tried to lull me to sleep from the safety of one corner of my screen. Upon trying the Hulu app, I checked to see if it would do it as well.

Well. It does. Just not nearly as well. For one thing, if you try to go PiP when an ad is up, it won’t. Just throws Hulu into the background (but don’t worry, it’ll pause that ad, so you won’t miss anything.) Meaning I can’t just pick a show, hit “home” and get back to work, I have to sit through the first volley of advertising.

Second problem? For series programming, when an episode is over, it just automatically closes the little viewer. Making you have to switch back to the actual app and manually select the next episode, then wait for the first ad to finish, then go back to what you were doing. (Also, the way the Hulu app doesn’t leave the series’ episode list on the bottom but instead fills it with “recommendations” means you have to go back to the series’ main page, hunt down what episode you were on, then do the other steps.)

What moron designed THAT?

And lastly – and honestly my biggest issue with this – what the hell is Hulu doing to my poor tablet? If I am watching Hulu, on WiFi, with no other apps open and the tablet plugged in, it will STILL drain the battery. Very, very slowly, admittedly. But still. If I’m using cellular and trying to do other things? Drops about a percent every five minutes. While it’s on the bloody charger. If I’m watching Hulu and the tablet’s not plugged in? A full battery is near-empty and bleeping at me in the five hours I take to sleep.

For comparison, my charge goes UP when Netflix is running by itself, and holds stable when it’s in PIP mode, even if I’m playing a game like Dungeon Hunter V or on cellular. I don’t know what the hell Hulu’s doing in the background that I’m not aware of, but draining the battery faster than a fairly data and graphics intensive game while watching Lost Tapes or whatever seems fairly impressive to me.

Someone needs to come in and kick their butts into shape, methinks. Or Netflix and Hulu need to go play nice with one another. Netflix can bring the user interface and quality of life, Hulu can bring their library. Hell, they can even charge a little more, if they can get some great shows and movies (Paranormal State and Star Wars, pretty please?). But as things stand, it kinda sucks on either side of the fence.

Oh, and one last dig; Crunchyroll. Best (or worst) of both worlds; crap selection AND atrocious interface! Ta da! (Yes, I’m aware it’s a niche streamer, but I could not find a single anime I wanted to watch on there. No Helsing? No Ranma? No Evangelion? You can go ahead and curse my round eyes or explain how I don’t properly appreciate “good” anime all you like, but still. I can think of better things to do than watch 800+ hours of Yu-Gi-Oh!, DBZ, and that bizarre mess that had all the WWII countries anthropomorphized into little chibi kids who were always fighting.)

That said, I’m going back to Hulu for a bit. They have The Real Exorcist on there, and I love cackling at silly people.

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