Hulu Plus Subscription Service Launches, Includes iPad & iPhone App

The TV-on-the-web service, Hulu, is now offering a free iPhone & iPad app for Hulu Plus, its recently launched subscription service.

The service is currently in private beta, but you can sign up for the opportunity to try it out. Invites appear to be going out already, though who knows how many folks will get a chance early on in the private program. The subscription will run $9.99 per month, and give season pass type access to full seasons of television shows, as well as past seasons for some programming. All of the content will purportedly be presented in glorious HD.

Though the service itself is in private beta, the iPhone/iPad app is available right now for download. There is a gallery of free sample content and a tour of the content offerings as a whole, but otherwise you must have a beta invite to log in and do more.

It looks fairly similar to the ABC television layout — and interestingly, highlights some of the ABC (s dis) programming that’s freely available via its iPad (s aapl) app. The app works and feels much like the browser-based and desktop interfaces, which was a good move to keep things simple for anyone already familiar with the service. The search functions in real-time and gives an immediate listing of available content for consumption in an easy to navigate layout. You can even hide the top horizontal pane to focus on the shows that you’re looking for without distractions. From a player perspective, you can pause and play, but like the existing service, there are intermittent commercials to sit through which you cannot skip.

I’d be lying if I said this premise didn’t piqué a little bit of interest for me. However, a couple of things seem odd. The first, is that they aren’t clear whether the private beta is allowing you to try it for free, or try it with the $10-a-month subscription. I would hope the former if, but it doesn’t seem to be stated where I could find any clarification. The other odd part, is enabling this subscription service and content for web-enabled television sets. Content-wise, we’re talking about free, over the air network television programming, not cable which may be limited to some people who would pay $10 a month for this access. We can already watch this stuff on our TVs without paying for it. Oh, and we’re still getting commercials while paying for this otherwise free content? Hm…

Yes, there are older shows available, and yes, it’s cool to see this stuff on the go via iPad or iPhone, but with many people having DVRs and Sling devices — not to mention Netflix and the ABC apps for iPad — how enticing will Hulu Plus actually be? If you’ve gotten an invite and have some insights to share on the topic — or even have an opinion (we know you do) about the attractiveness of this new offering — we’re all ears. Guess Flash on the iPhone wasn’t such a big barrier after all.