Hulu Goes Live With Free Movies and TV

The quality is disappointing, but not the price.

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Hulu has arrived. Starting today, the video-streaming site offers a selection of free Hollywood entertainment, starting with about 250 TV episodes and 100 movies. Good choices, too, including The Big Lebowski and 30 Rock.

You pay by watching ads that won't fast-forward. The commercials are tolerable. They're shorter and less frequent than on network television. And the site is easy to navigate with video that starts streaming almost immediately.

But the quality is disappointing. Even on a PC monitor, the images appear soft and a bit jerky, for want of a better word. They don't stutter so much as appear to be regularly dropping frames, apparently a product of compression to get them to stream. They look even worse on a big-screen TV.

Hulu is a joint venture of News Corp., which owns Fox, and NBC Universal. Other studios have signed up with their movies and shows. Videos can be viewed at the site and other portals, such as AOL and MSN. Anything, I imagine, to get more eyes for the ads.

I guess I'm spoiled by other download options like Vudu, which offers much better video and sound. But you can't beat the price, and I suspect Hulu will be part of our regular viewing.

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