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What is Hulu? Pricing, plans, and everything else you need to know
When most people think of the oldest streaming services, they think of Netflix, but Hulu launched just a year later in 2008. Despite never expanding beyond US territories, it remains one of the top streaming services with an extensive library of movies, shows, and even Live TV.
The launch of Disney Plus put Hulu in an unusual spot since it’s majority-owned by Disney, but it still offers a unique service with some excellent original content like The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s not available outside of the US. Instead, Disney Plus decided to add more mature content in international markets with its Star brand, including content previously made for Hulu.
So what is Hulu, and is it worth the subscription fee? We answer these questions and more in this comprehensive guide.
Looking to try out the service for yourself? Grab a 30 day free trial at the link below, or take advantage of the excellent value of the Disney Plus-Hulu-ESPN Plus bundle at $13.99 or $19.99 a month.
What is Hulu?
Hulu is an on-demand video streaming platform that has been around for more than a decade. It’s one of the best and largest streaming platforms in the United States, with more than 40 million subscribers.
For many traditional cable subscribers, Hulu also represents an excellent cable-cutting alternative. Not only does it have an enormous library of around 2,500 movies and more than 40,000 episodes from thousands of TV shows, but it also has a plan to stream live TV through the Hulu + Live TV program (more on this shortly).
Read also: The best streaming services of 2021
One controversial aspect that separates Hulu from most of its rivals is the use of ads. The cheapest plans (and bundles) feature ads in the content, similar to what you see on network television. Paying for a service and still seeing ads might be disappointing for some users, but it does help keep the cost low.
Those who don’t want to see ads will have to pay twice as much for the privilege. Unlike many other streaming services, you can also pay for premium add-ons individually for things likes unlimited simultaneous streams, TV channels, and more.
What is Hulu plus Live TV?
Hulu TV, or Hulu + Live TV, refers to subscription plans that include 60+ cable TV channels in addition to the standard streaming catalog. It’s essentially the perfect plan for reluctant cord cutters, as it allows you to watch many of the same channels without the year-long commitment or installation and cancelation fees.
The cheapest Hulu + Live TV plan runs $64.99 a month, which is already much pricier than many streaming services. However, it does include ads on both Hulu content and TV channels. Local channels are generally included in the plan, but you can purchase additional channel packages for an additional fee.
Hulu + Live TV is the perfect plan for reluctant cord cutters.
There’s another plan for ad-free streaming at $70.99 a month, but it only removes ads from Hulu’s streaming content, not TV channels. Other add-on premium channels like HBO and Showtime will also feature ads at the beginning and end of the show or movie.
Perhaps the best thing about Hulu + Live TV is Cloud DVR, which allows you to save up to 50 hours of live TV content to watch at a later date. You can bump this up to 200 hours for an extra $9.99 a month, unlocking the ability to fast forward through recorded ads.
How does Hulu work?
Hulu is a bit more complicated to use than other streaming services, especially if you’re subscribed to a Hulu + Live TV plan. Essentially though, it works the same, with a remote server that houses the content. You connect to this server on your device (mobile phone, tablet, smart TV, etc.) and start streaming.
No matter which plan you choose, you will have to answer a few questions before you can start streaming the first time. This is largely to see what kind of content you’re interested in for recommendations, and it can be skipped if you want to start streaming even sooner.
If you’re a Hulu + Live TV subscriber, you have to set up a Home network to access local TV channels. You can only have one Home network, but you can change it up to four times a year for free. You will not be able to stream TV stations on non-mobile devices while away from your Home network.
For the streaming services to work smoothly, you will also need a solid internet connection. Here are the recommended internet speeds for Hulu:
- 3.0 Mbps — Recommended speed for standard streaming.
- 8.0 Mbps — Recommended speed for live TV streaming.
- 16.0 Mbps — Recommended speed for UHD (4K) streaming.
Read more: How much data does Hulu use?
Is Hulu worth it?
Whether or not Hulu is worth it depends on which plan you spring for. At just $5.99 a month, the ad-supported plan is one of the best values you can get in the streaming world. It’s fantastic as a standalone service or supplement to other streaming platforms like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.
The ad-free version is more difficult to justify, as it costs twice as much for the same content. This option is only worth it if you have extra money to spend and can’t stand advertisements in any shape or form or want to take advantage of downloads to watch offline.
Hulu's ad-supported plan is one of the best values in the streaming world.
Recommending Hulu + Live TV, on the other hand, is a bit more complicated. It can be a great way for traditional cable subscribers to bridge the gap between cable TV and complete cord-cutting with just streaming services. For everyone else, though, it’s an expensive way to stream shows and movies.
Plus, even the ad-supported plans allow you to stream many new shows the day after they air, so you still won’t miss out on the latest shows. Hulu + Live TV is also more difficult to share with family since you can only set a single Home network and two simultaneous streams.
Another thing that throws the whole argument on its head is the Disney Plus-Hulu-ESPN Plus bundle at $13.99, or $19.99 a month with the Hulu No Ads option. This unlocks a huge amount of content for a fee that’s just slightly higher than a standard Netflix plan. If you’re looking for the best bang for your buck, the bundle deal is where it’s at.
What the experts are saying
Experts agree that although Hulu is behind other streaming services for original content, it’s a great value for those who can live with ads. Here’s what we found across the web:
- In our comparison of the top streaming services here at Android Authority, we noted that “Hulu is a step ahead of the competition when it comes to pricing – if you don’t mind ads, it offers one of the cheapest monthly subscriptions out there.”
- In his updated 2020 review of Hulu, PC Mag‘s Ben Moore noted that “Hulu continues to offer a strong library of shows and movies, as well as a robust live TV option,” but deducted points because “Hulu’s original series are hit-or-miss and while it recently added offline downloads, they’re currently only available for premium subscribers.” Still, it earned an editor’s choice badge from the publication.
- CNET‘s Alison DeNisco Rayome praised the value of Hulu’s ad-supported plan but wrote that “If you use Hulu frequently — or if you’ve really gotten used to Netflix’s no-ads model and can’t stand watching commercials — the extra $6 per month is probably worth it to watch shows uninterrupted.”
- In CordCutting‘s initial review of the Hulu + Live TV service at launch, Stephen Lovely was critical of the offering, writing that, “In a market with at least three strong contenders, Hulu has arrived offering a service that charges more and offers less.” Since the review was first published, the service has added more channels and increased Hulu + Live TV prices.
What users are saying
Hulu is one of the biggest streaming services in the US. However, since it is limited to the US market, it still lags far behind the top players. Netflix has 209 million subscribers compared to Hulu’s 39.4 million, and even Disney Plus has gathered over 100 million subscribers worldwide, and it launched in November 2019.
In our own polling here at Android Authority, our readers have mixed feelings about Hulu. We asked the question, “If you could only pick one, which streaming service would you choose?” and the results are listed can be seen below.
If you could only pick one, which streaming service would you choose?
At first glance, less than 5% of the vote might feel low. However, our readers are spread worldwide, and Hulu is offered only in the United States. The other top results, except HBO Now, are available worldwide.
Read the full results: We asked, you told us: Netflix wins big, Apple TV Plus falls (very) short
The phrasing of the question may also have affected the results. Netflix is the obvious first choice for many, but that doesn’t mean that Hulu isn’t worth a subscription as well.
However, it may show that Hulu’s goal of replacing both cable subscriptions and streaming platforms is less desirable than Netflix’s streaming-only approach. Most consumers appear to be interested in cheaper streaming solutions rather than expensive cable alternatives.
Where is Hulu available?
Unlike most of its major streaming competitors, Hulu is only available in the United States. You may access the streaming content from US territories overseas, such as Puerto Rico and military bases in Japan. Still, Live TV service is only available at a single residence in the US. It also doesn’t officially work with VPNs or anonymizers.
Will Hulu expand internationally?
Hulu had been in talks to roll out in other countries, including the UK, Japan, and Canada, for a decade or more, but plans have continually failed to materialize. Local broadcasters have original programming in other regions, such as The Handmaid’s Tale, but the service has never been offered outside United States territories.
As we mentioned earlier, Disney has now expanded Disney Plus overseas with its new Star brand. It has more mature content compared to the core Disney Plus movies and shows. It already has many Hulu shows and will get more in the weeks and months ahead.
How much does Hulu cost? Plans and more
If you can put up with ads, Hulu is one of the cheapest streaming services out there, representing a fantastic value for the amount of content on offer. Its more expensive plans don’t offer the same value but may still be good for some users.
There are four distinct Hulu plans, plus several options for add-ons to enhance the experience. The cheapest runs $5.99 a month but includes ads. These ads can be more or less intrusive, depending on the content.
The cheapest Hulu plan includes ads.
The next most expensive plan removes those ads and adds the ability to download shows and movies for offline viewing, but costs twice as much at $11.99. The actual content library is the same between the two plans, so you should really only consider this plan if you really can’t handle ads. Still, the ad-free plan is in the same range as Netflix’s standard pricing plan.
ESPN Plus add-on
Hulu recently launched a new add-on for its service. It allows subscribers to add all the content available in ESPN Plus directly into the Hulu app. That means you won’t have to switch apps to watch all shows and live programming on ESPN Plus; you can just watch it in the Hulu app. Hulu users can also access UFC live content, including its PPV matches. The price for the add-on is $5.99 a month, which is the same as the regular ESPN Plus price. You don’t need to do anything if you have signed up via the Disney Plus-ESPN Plus-Hulu bundle. The ESPN Plus content will automatically be added to the Hulu app.
Hulu + Live TV Plus
If you’re looking for even more, the next plan jumps all the way up to $64.99 but includes more than 60 TV channels to stream as well. Called Hulu + Live TV, it has great channels like ESPN, CBS, ABC, Fox, and others. You can even get access to local channels by registering your home address. Check out the full list of included channels further down in this article.
However, the Hulu + Live TV plan includes ads on all streaming and live TV content. You can get ad-free streaming on Hulu content by bumping that up to $70.99 a month, but you will still see ads on live TV content as well as add-on premium channels like HBO and Showtime.
Hulu subscription plans
- Hulu — $5.99
- Access to the streaming library, with ads.
- Hulu (no ads) — $11.99
- Access to the streaming library without ads.
- Hulu + Live TV — $64.99
- Access to the streaming library (with ads) and 60+ live TV channels.
- Hulu + Live TV (no ads) — $70.99
- Access to the streaming library (without ads) and 60+ live TV channels.
If you’re looking to get the most value out of your streaming subscriptions, there’s also a bundle that includes Disney Plus, Hulu (with ads), and ESPN Plus. This is a great way to cover all of your streaming needs, and it’s priced at $13.99. Click the button below to sign up.
What are Hulu add-ons?
Hulu add-ons are premium features that enhance your streaming experience for an extra monthly fee. You can add some of these to the cheapest ad-supported plan, and others are limited to the Hulu + Live TV plans.
Addons can be added or removed from month to month, so there’s no long-term commitment. Here’s a full list of all Hulu add-ons.
Premium channels (any subscription):
- Cinemax — $9.99/mo
- HBO Max — $14.99/mo
- Showtime — $10.99/mo
- Starz — $8.99/mo
Network add-ons (live TV subscription only):
- Español add-on — $4.99/mo
- CNN en Español
- Discovery en Español
- Discovery Familia
- ESPN Deportes
- FOX Deportes
- History Channel en Español
- NBC Universo
- Entertainment add-on — $7.99/mo
- American Heroes Channel
- CNBC World
- Cooking Channel
- Destination America
- Discovery Family
- Discovery Life
- Great American Country
- Lifetime Movies
- ESPN Plus — $5.99/mo
Extra features (live TV subscription only):
- Enhanced Cloud DVR — $9.99/mo
- Increases storage to 200 hours and unlocks fast-forwarding through ads.
- Unlimited Screens — $9.99/mo
- Unlimited screens for streaming, premium channels limited to five screens.
- Enhanced Cloud DVR and Unlimited Screens — $14.98/mo
How do I get Hulu?
Signing up for Hulu is quick and easy and can be done from the web and mobile apps. Just click one of the buttons below to get started!
Can I get Hulu for free?
The Hulu streaming plans include a 30-day free trial, and the Hulu + Live TV plans have a seven-day free trial. You don’t need to do anything special to gain access to these offers, just sign up, and you’ll automatically get the free trial!
Another way to get Hulu for free or at a discount is to share the account with a friend or family member. Note that without an add-on, you’ll only get two simultaneous streams, so be careful how many people you share your account with. Hulu is also frequently paired with other services like Spotify and Disney Plus.
What devices does Hulu support?
Hulu is easy to access on almost any device of your choice. The most obvious ways to stream content are via a browser at the official website and through the service’s Google Play and App Store apps. You can also access Hulu on many smart TVs, consoles, streaming sticks, and set-top boxes.
Read also: The best media streaming devices you can buy
However, you should know that there are two versions of the Hulu app, and they don’t have the same capabilities. The latest Hulu app can play all Hulu content, including live TV. The classic app is limited to the streaming library and will not access live TV, premium channels, or other new features.
Here’s the full list of supported Hulu devices at the time of writing:
Latest Hulu app:
- Android phones and tablets (Android 5.0 or higher)
- Android TVs
- Apple TV (4th gen or 4K)
- Echo Show
- Fire tablets (Fire OS 5.0 or higher)
- Fire TV and Fire stick
- iPhones and iPads (iOS 12.0 or higher)
- LG TVs (most models)
- Nintendo Switch
- PlayStation 3 (no live TV)
- PlayStation 4
- PlayStation 5
- Roku and Roku stick (most models)
- Samsung TVs (2016 or newer)
- Vizio SmartCast TVs
- Xbox 360
- Xbox One
- Xbox Series X/S
- Xfinity Flex Streaming TV Box (no live TV)
- Xfinity X1 TV Boxes
- Web browsers
Classic Hulu app:
- Apple TV (2nd and 3rd gen)
- LG Blu-ray players (most models)
- LG TVs (older models)
- Roku (1, 2, and LT)
- Samsung Tizen Blu-ray players
- Samsung TVs (2013-2015 models)
- Sony 4K Blu-ray players
- Sony TVs (newer than 2012)
- Vizio TVs (non SmartCast models)
What’s on Hulu?
Hulu might not have as many impressive originals as Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, but it more than makes up for it with syndicated content. There are thousands of episodes to binge, with new episodes added virtually every day thanks to relationships with many of America’s biggest networks.
Considering that Disney will soon be Hulu’s sole owner, you might expect the company to have more content on its Disney Plus platform, but this isn’t always the case. Disney has committed to keeping Disney Plus as kid-friendly as possible, which means that R-rated content is nowhere to be found. Hulu, then, has become the primary home for Disney’s more adult content.
So, where should you get started? Here’s a quick look at the top shows and movies to give you an idea of what’s available on the platform.
Best Hulu shows
Hulu’s biggest draw (apart from the low price) is its incredible catalog of shows. We have several lists of the best shows by genre (which you can see below), but here’s a taste of what to expect.
- American Horror Story — A horror anthology series from FX where every season is a self-contained mini-series. Fantastic performances from a star-studded cast have won it many awards over the years.
- Archer — An animated sitcom, also from FX, about a dysfunctional intelligence agency headed by Sterling Archer. It’s consistently rated as one of the best shows on the network.
- Castle Rock — Set in the Stephen King multiverse, this Hulu original psychological horror anthology series from J. J. Abrams brings the creepy ideas from Stephen King’s mind to life.
- Devs — An FX on Hulu sci-fi thriller created by Alex Garland (Ex Machina, Annihilation) about a mysterious disappearance at a quantum computing firm in Silicon Valley.
- Fargo — A black-comedy anthology series from FX inspired by the 1996 film of the same name by the Coen Brothers. Each season takes place in a new city with new characters, and the fourth season is expected sometime soon.
- Future Man — A Hulu Original time-traveling-comedy about an underachieving janitor named “Josh Futturman” who unexpectedly discovers that the characters in his favorite video game are real, and it’s up to him to save the future.
- The Handmaid’s Tale — A Hulu Original dystopian drama based on Margaret Atwood’s acclaimed 1985 novel of the same name. It’s the service’s most famous original series, with the first season winning eight Primetime Emmys.
- It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia — A sitcom from FX about a group of five terrible people who run an Irish pub in Philadelphia. There is nothing these shameless individuals won’t do to pursue their selfish desires, with hilarious results.
- Veronica Mars — A mystery drama that initially aired between 2004 and 2007. After a feature film was funded by fans in 2013, the show was picked up by Hulu for an all-new fourth season.
- What We Do In the Shadows — This goofy dark comedy from FX is about three vampires who live together in New York City. They’ve been roommates for hundreds of years, and, as you can imagine, this leads to some (over-the-top) tension.
Best Hulu movies
Although it’s better known for TV shows, Hulu also has thousands of great movies to stream right away. Check out our full list of recommendations at the link below.
Read also: The best movies on Hulu
For now, Hulu only has a handful of original movies and documentaries to its name, but the list is growing. Here are a few select options to give you a sneak preview of what’s available on the platform.
- Palm Springs — An original comedy about two people at a wedding who get caught in a time loop and have to relive that same day over and over again.
- Run — A thriller about a young girl who starts to believe her mother may be trying to keep her sick and at home.
- Nomadland – A movie about a woman who loses her job and decides to live off the grid and join a community of nomads in the US.
- Becoming Bond — A documentary about George Lasenby, who starred in just one James Bond movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
- Little Monsters — A Hulu Original zombie comedy about a washed-up musician and a children’s TV host who have to protect a group of children after a sudden zombie outbreak.
- Minding the Gap — A Hulu Original documentary about a group of friends brought together by their love of skateboarding. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
- Parasite — A black comedy-thriller from South Korean director Bong Joon-ho about a low-income family that takes advantage of a wealthy family to get a taste of the high life. It won many awards and is widely considered the best film of 2019, if not the entire decade.
Hulu live TV channels
Hulu + Live TV is one of the unique aspects of the service, and the offering separates it from streaming competitors like Netflix, Disney Plus, and Amazon Prime Video. It’s a fantastic cord-cutting option because it includes common channels and local ones so that you won’t miss out on the local news.
Plus, you can add even more channels by paying for the Español and Entertainment add-ons. These add a variety of channels at less than a buck a channel.
So, what channels do you get with Hulu live TV? Here’s the full list of Hulu live TV channels, not including certain local affiliates and add-ons.
- ABC News Live
- ACC Network
- Animal Planet
- Big Ten Network
- Cartoon Network/Adult Swim
- CBS Sports Network
- Cheddar Business
- CNN International
- Comedy Central
- Cozi TV
- The CW
- Discovery Channel
- Disney Channel
- Disney Junior
- ESPN 2
- ESPN Bases Loaded
- ESPN College Extra
- ESPN Goal Line
- Food Network
- Fox Business
- Fox News
- Golf Channel
- The History Channel
- Investigation Discovery
- NASA TV
- National Geographic
- Nat Geo Wild
- Nick Jr.
- NFL Network
- NFL Red Zone
- Olympic Channel
- Paramount Network
- SEC Network
- Smithsonian Channel
- Travel Channel
- TV Land
- Universal Kids
- USA Network
Best Hulu shows and movies by genre
We have a wide variety of additional content lists by genre for Hulu, so you’ll be sure to find exactly what you’re looking for. Pick one from the list and get watching!
Hulu vs the competition
Hulu faces stiff competition in the streaming world, but it still manages to carve out its own niche. The only aspect it can’t compete in, at least for now, is reach. The platform is limited to just the United States, so Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, and even Apple TV Plus win by default in most countries.
Here’s a quick breakdown of how Hulu holds up against the rest of the big players in the industry.
Netflix is the biggest player in the streaming world, with an unbeatable catalog of original and syndicated content. Still, if you’re primarily interested in syndicated TV programming, Hulu more than pulls its weight. Its strong ties with Disney and other networks give it a big advantage over Netflix, and the Hulu + Live TV package is beyond anything Netflix currently offers.
Read the full comparison: Hulu vs. Netflix: Which one is right for you?
If you are looking for original content, however, it’s a much different story. Netflix Originals like Stranger Things, House of Cards, and Black Mirror are must-watch series in the streaming world.
Hulu’s ad-supported plan is significantly cheaper than Netflix at $5.99 a month, which is an incredible value — if you can put up with the ads. The Disney Plus-Hulu-ESPN Plus bundle is an even better value at $13.99, the same as the standard Netflix plan at $13.99.
Amazon Prime Video
Amazon Prime Video is yet another strong contender, with a huge catalog of content and a few quality originals worth the watch. Still, it doesn’t offer as many syndicated TV shows as Hulu, nor does it have anything similar to Hulu + Live TV.
Although Hulu’s ad-supported plan is remarkably cheap, it can’t compete with the value of Amazon Prime. For one monthly (or yearly) fee, users get access to Prime Video, free shipping on orders, ebook rentals on Kindle, unlimited photo storage, and discounts at Whole Foods supermarkets.
Prime Video offers up to 4K quality media downloads and three simultaneous streams as part of the basic plan. That said, the interface is difficult to use compared to Hulu’s, so it can be a struggle to find interesting shows to watch if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
It might seem strange to compare Hulu and Disney Plus since they fall under the Disney banner, but they offer two distinct services. They share many of the same great shows available for streaming, but each has its own exclusive originals.
The similarities also end when content moves beyond PG-13. Disney Plus does not offer R-rated content and may even censor certain scandalous scenes in older movies. Hulu has no such concerns and offers a much wider variety of content.
Disney Plus costs roughly the same as Hulu’s ad-supported plan at $7.99 a month (compared to $5.99 for Hulu) but includes 4K streaming on four devices at once, plus media downloads and, obviously, no ads. Fortunately, you can get both services as part of the Disney Plus-Hulu-ESPN Plus bundle for $13.99, which is a truly incredible value for just about anyone who streams content.
Apple TV Plus
Apple TV Plus is one of the newest streaming services, and it hasn’t yet made a big impression on consumers. Still, it has a unique approach that makes it a great alternative to Hulu and others.
Where Hulu offers primarily syndicated shows from other networks, Apple TV Plus has almost exclusively original content. These include both series like The Morning Show and Mythic Quest and films like The Banker, Greyhound, and Hala.
Apple TV Plus is also remarkably cheap — even cheaper than Hulu’s ad-supported plan — at $4.99 a month. You can even get a full year or more for free if you’ve recently purchased an Apple device.
Q: How many people can stream on Hulu at the same time?
A: On the standard plan, two people can stream at the same time. Unlimited streams can be purchased for an extra $9.99 a month on ad-free and live TV plans.
Q: Does Hulu have shows and movies in 4K?
A: While original shows and movies are offered in 4K, most syndicated content is limited to HD quality.
Q: Can you download shows on Hulu?
A: You can download shows, but only on the ad-free plans. Learn more here.
Q: Can you share a Hulu account with friends and family?
A: Yes, you can share an account. Learn more here.
Q: Why does Hulu have ads?
A: It has ads on its cheapest plan to keep the price as low as possible.
Q: How do you clear your Hulu history?
A: It’s easy to clear your history on the service. Learn more here.
Q: Can you use Hulu with a Chromecast?
A: Yes, it is fully compatible with all Chromecast devices.
Help other readers out
Are you a current or former Hulu subscriber? Make your voice heard in our polls below, and then go ahead and post your own mini-review in the comments!