Criterion Collection Coming to Hulu, Leaving Netflix Streaming by Year’s End

Criterion Collection

My wife and I have been discussing whether or not we should sign up for Hulu Plus, primarily so that we can stay up-to-date on several of our favorite television shows (we got rid of cable television about a year ago). And now there’s one more reason to consider joining Hulu Plus: the Criterion Collection is coming to Hulu.

Starting today, there are more than 150 of our most important films online on the Hulu Plus subscription service. Over the coming months, that number will swell to more than 800 films. For the true cinephile, this should be a dream come true. On Hulu Plus, you’ll find everything in our library, from Academy Award winners to many of the most famous films by art-house superstars like Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa, and Federico Fellini to films so rare that they have never been seen in the U.S. in any medium. Some of these lost gems have been so hard to see that even most of the Criterion staff will see them for the first time only when they go live on Hulu Plus! Each month, we’ll be highlighting a mix of programs, centered on themes, directors, actors, and other creative artists, as well as celebrity picks, and mixing them with deep cuts from the catalog that will be unknown to all but the most prominent cinephiles in the world.

Longtime readers will know that I’m a huge fan of the Criterion Collection: they are, quite simply, the Cadillac of DVD publishers, releasing pristine versions of the greatest films in cinema’s history. They’ve recently been moving into online streaming, most notably by making a number of their titles available via Netflix’s streaming service. However, with their Hulu partnership, they’re going one step further. Not only will the movies themselves be available via Hulu, but in the coming months, so will a number of the amazing supplemental materials that Criterion packages with their releases, e.g., liner notes, trailers, documentaries, and interviews. Which is pretty cool any way you slice it.

Unfortunately, there is a downside to this, particularly if you’re a Netflix fan like me. By the end of 2011, Criterion titles will no longer be available via Netflix’s streaming service (though they will still be available from Netflix via Blu-ray and DVD). Needless to say, this turn has some people rather miffed, if the comments on Criterion’s Hulu FAQ are any indication. Seems the biggest complaints revolve around having to shell out more money for an extra service and having to sit through advertisements (Hulu will air commercials before the Criterion movies) — both of which are complaints that I can sympathize with.

All things considered though, there’s no denying that this is a tremendous coup for Hulu, especially in light of some of the problems that they’ve had with TV networks beginning to place greater restrictions on what material can be shown on Hulu and when. And it’s an even bigger coup against Netflix, Hulu’s chief rival and the dominant player in online streaming services.