Hacking Hulu to your TV

So you’ve discovered a great show on Hulu, but those old guys at the network it’s from decided that they don’t understand technology and haven’t given Hulu to rights to view it on a TV or mobile device… This happens more than it should.

I’ve got a way to “hack” any Hulu show to your TV. If you’ve got an Apple TV and a Mac  it is easy.

  1. Set up your Apple TV to allow screen sharing.
  2. Fire up your Mac.
  3. Select your Apple TV in the AirPlay menu (if you don’t see an AirPlay menu, open the display preferences).
  4. You can mirror your screen or use it as an additional screen. I prefer the extra screen so I can still use my laptop for other things at the same time.
  5. Open hulu.com in a new browser window and then make it go full screen.

That’s it. Your Hulu video will play full screen on your TV, regardless of what rights it has. I suppose this trick could also be used for people who aren’t Hulu Plus subscribers too, or even for other sites that don’t have TV streaming options.

In theory this would probably work with Chromecast or other casting devices in combination with a compatible computer. I’ve only tested the Apple TV solution, so that’s all I can speak for from experience.

Have you tried something like this? Let me hear about it in the comments.

Review: Google Chromecast

Google ChromecastDespite already owning both an Apple TV and a Roku box (not to mention the PS3 and Wii that support many streaming options), I went ahead and picked up a Google Chromecast. At $35 (I found it on sale at Amazon for $30), it wasn’t a huge investment.

My first impression was that it was extremely simple and unobtrusive. It’s small enough that it hides away behind my TV and will even charge through the USB port on my TV (which is good, because I’m running out of surge protector spots). Setup wasn’t very hard at all and I’m pretty sure just about anyone could handle it. I went the laptop setup route, but I believe you could also do it from your phone with the Chromecast app.

Once it is setup it just waits there for you to “cast” content to it. The casting happens via another device, like your phone, tablet or Chrome browser. There’s no remote. Chromecast is simply an HDMI dongle. Google says this is a feature, but I find it a bit of an annoyance. It’s my biggest complaint. The nice thing about an Apple TV or Roku (or any of the dedicated streamers) is that you can just browse and start content with a remote. The other problem is that only a handful of apps support Chromecast at this time. It has plenty of potential, but the current state of things leaves a lot to be desired.

My experience was pretty good with casting. It seemed to handle a variety of media just fine like YouTube videos (from both my iPhone and my iPad) as well as a bit of the Chrome tab-mirroring from my laptop. The only issue with the tab is it seems to lag and any scrolling or interaction can become a bit choppy. If you’re just trying to watch content it works ok. That said, I did see some issues at a friend’s house while we were casting the WMU hockey game via his laptop in another room to the living room TV. It kept cutting out every five to 10 minutes. It may have been a computer or network issue, but it seemed to stream fine just on the computer. The whole thing is still considered a beta and there are sure to be a few hiccups like this.

The tab mirroring is a huge plus and something Roku currently can’t offer. Apple TV can mirror your whole screen or even act as another display via AirPlay. I’ve personally had a little better luck with AirPlay, but it’s also had more time to work out its bugs.

The verdict? Google Chromecast is one of the cheapest and easiest solutions for people wanting to get Internet content on their TVs. I think as time goes on and more support arrives, the dongle will become more and more useful. If you’re looking for something to stream a lot of content, this might not be your best option. You still need a device (phone, tablet, laptop) to get anything started with Chromecast. If that seems like a problem or hassle, I recommend checking out some other options like Roku or Apple TV.

Opinion: TV Ratings are Broken

I’m an avid television watcher. At any given time, I’m actively following 10 or more shows. I just love TV. All kinds of TV. I’m not alone either. TV is big business and brings in billions of dollars to networks every year. This is why I can’t believe those networks are completely ignoring the people who actually follow their shows. You’re canceling the wrong shows!

You’ve probably heard the term Nielsen Ratings thrown around. Nielsen is a company that’s been around pretty much since the dawn of TV giving the networks a magic number that’s supposed to represent viewership. Their system to do this? Basically, it has not changed for decades. Nielsen essentially puts a magic recorder on a several thousand TVs in households around the country. Despite being an extremely small percentage of the population, Nielsen claims they have a sample size that is representative of the nation.

So these recorders keep track of what the families are watching (TV shows, commercials and recently even same day DVRed shows). Every night Nielsen collects the data, packages it up in fancy charts and sends it off to the networks. For a more detailed look at how this all works check out this article I found quite helpful.

This all sounds straight forward, and I’m sure 30 years ago it was a very good way of knowing what people were watching. My problem is, not everyone watches TV like this anymore. Their data is skewed and in my opinion irrelevant in today’s TV watching landscape.

Think about this for a minute… do you watch your favorite show when it’s on TV? Sure I love to watch Community, but I’m usually not home on Thursday nights, so I always catch up on Fridays via Hulu. I’m not alone. A great number of people are changing the way they consume TV shows. Hulu, Netflix, iTunes and even on-demand cable are options many people (especially the younger generations) are using daily. Only measuring shows based on “live” viewers is ridiculous and archaic.

As the earlier mentioned article points out, neither Nielsen nor the networks really care. They want to sell ads, and everyone involved is used to the current system and just take it at its word. They have no intention or desire to change. As a TV fan, I’m outraged.

This is exactly why great shows like Firefly and Friday Night Lights get canceled while complete crap shows like Two and Half Men or Mike and Molly stay on the air. It’s just not fair to television viewers, show creators and even network executives for such lousy data to be making such big decisions about what’s on TV.

This is my plea for a new way of measuring viewership. It’s time internet streaming, iTunes downloads and cable on-demand viewers get their proper say in what stays on the air. Who cares if I’m watching ads on Hulu versus live TV. You can still make money off of my TV show addiction; you just need to think bigger. Let the music industry’s inability to change and embrace technology be a cautious tale of what staying with the status quo will bring.

All I know for sure is Nielsen clearly doesn’t represent me, and I know I’m not the only one. Here’s to major change in the TV ratings game!

***UPDATE—Feb. 21, 2013***

Hot on the heels of my post, Nielsen has agreed to expand its definition of TV viewing. One can only assume they read my post and were convinced it was the right thing to do. 😉

Minimalist TV Posters

Two of my passions are design and TV. It’s rare that I’m not watching at least five TV shows at any given moment. I’m not just a couch potato, I’m a multi-tasker. Anytime I’m surfing the web or working on a project there’s a good chance the TV is on.

The Simpsons Knight Rider  MacGyver Poster

So with TV being such a big part of my everyday and design being my livelihood, I was totally psyched to find this great poster series from Albert Exergian. I first saw them probably a year ago. The posters are wonderful. They really capture the spirit and feeling of each show with so few elements. I geeked over them for a while and then they slowly faded away to the back of my mind. That is until today, when I came across this other great poster series.

Lost Poster Daria Poster Veronica Mars Poster Mad Men Poster

This time it became a guessing game which added a new element of fun. I love that each poster has three icons to represent the show and no words or titles. I love seeing what elements the designers thought were most important. It’s almost like a really pretty game of Pictionary. It was their shout out to the original set of posters that reminded me about them. I like both sets very much, for different reasons and hope you enjoyed them too. Make sure you check out the full series (and the answers) over at re:blog.