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What is Hulu? Pricing, plans, availability, and more

It's cheap if you can deal with ads, but is it ultimately worth it?
By

Published onFebruary 12, 2024

hulu logo - the best tv shows on hulu

When most people think of the oldest streaming services, they think of Netflix, but Hulu launched a year later in 2008. Despite never expanding beyond US territories, it remains one of the top streaming services with an extensive library, including new shows and movies that drop every week.

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 and Only Murders in the Building. Plus, 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 Trio Bundle — Disney Plus, Hulu, and ESPN Plus for $14.99 (with ads) or $19.99 (no ads) a month.

Hulu Logo
Hulu
Hulu offers not only thousands of movies and TV shows to stream, it also has original shows and films like The Handmaid's Tale. You can upgrade to Hulu Plus Live TV to get live channels, including your local stations.

What is Hulu?

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 nearly 50 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 Plus Live TV program (more on this further down).

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 like unlimited simultaneous streams, TV channels, and more.

How does Hulu work?

How does Hulu work - interface

Hulu is a bit more complicated to use than other streaming services, especially if you’re subscribed to a Hulu Plus 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 Plus 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.

How much does Hulu cost? Plans and more

Hulu screenshot 2020

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 several Hulu plans, including bundles and a live TV service (outlined in the next section) plus several options for add-ons to enhance the experience. The cheapest runs $7.99 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 more than twice as much at $17.99. The actual content library is the same between the two plans, so you should 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.

Below we’ve listed the pricing for all basic Hulu plans. If you’re interested in adding live TV, scroll down a bit to learn more about Hulu + Live TV plans.

Hulu subscription plans

  • Hulu — $7.99/mo (or $69.99/year)
    • Access to the streaming library, with ads.
    • Reduced pricing for students: $1.99/mo.
  • Hulu Premium — $17.99/mo
    • Access to the streaming library without ads.

Disney Plus bundles

  • Duo Basic — $9.99/mo
    • Hulu (with ads) and Disney Plus (with ads)
  • Duo Premium — $19.99/mo
    • Hulu (no ads) and Disney Plus (no ads)
  • Trio Basic — $14.99/mo
    • Hulu (with ads), Disney Plus (with ads), and ESPN Plus (with ads)
  • Trio Premium — $19.99/mo
    • Hulu (no ads), Disney Plus (no ads), and ESPN Plus (with ads)

What is Hulu Premium?

Hulu Premium is essentially the ad-free version of Hulu. You may also see it referred to as Hulu (no ads). This subscription has the same content as a Hulu Basic subscription but without the ads. It costs more than twice as much as standard Hulu, so you are paying a big premium for ad-free streaming.

ESPN Plus add-on

espn hulu

Hulu also has an 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 directly in the Hulu app. Hulu users can also access UFC live content, including its PPV matches. The price for the add-on is $6.99 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 Bundle which includes Disney Plus, ESPN Plus, and Hulu. The ESPN Plus content will automatically be added to the Hulu app.

Disney Plus comedy movies section stock photo
Disney Plus bundle

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 Plus 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
  • Max — $15.99/mo
  • Showtime — $10.99/mo
  • Starz — $9.99/mo
  • ESPN Plus — $10.99/mo
  • Disney Plus — $2.00/mo

Is Hulu worth it?

Hulu Science Fiction section shown on smartphone

Whether or not Hulu is worth it depends on which plan you spring for. At just $7.99 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 rival Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.

The ad-free version is more difficult to justify, as it costs more than twice as much for the same content at $17.99 a month. 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 Plus 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. Hulu Plus Live TV is worth it for some, but not all.

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 Plus 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 bundle (which includes Disney Plus or Disney and ESPN Plus along with Hulu) with bundles starting at $9.99 per month. This unlocks a huge amount of content for a very low monthly fee. If you’re looking for the best bang for your buck, the bundle deals are where it’s at.

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?

disney plus star

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 in Canada and overseas with its Disney Plus Star brand. It has more mature content compared to the core Disney Plus movies and shows. Most Hulu shows and movies are available there for Canadian viewers. Outside of North America, Star is often bundled with Disney Plus, although it may not have all Hulu Original series and movies available for streaming.

What is Hulu Plus Live TV?

Hulu Live TV My channels

Hulu Plus 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 over 75 common channels and local ones so that you won’t miss out on local news or sports.

All of that comes on top of your regular Hulu subscription or as a standalone service at a slightly discounted price.

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.

What channels are included with Hulu Plus Live TV?

Here’s the full list of Hulu live TV channels as of writing, not including certain local affiliates and add-ons.

  • A&E
  • ABC
  • ABC News Live
  • ACC Network
  • Animal Planet
  • BET
  • Big Ten Network
  • Boomerang
  • Bravo
  • Cartoon Network/Adult Swim
  • CBS
  • CBS Sports Network
  • Cheddar Business
  • CNBC
  • CNN
  • CNN International
  • Comedy Central
  • Cozi TV
  • CMT
  • The CW
  • Discovery Channel
  • Disney Channel
  • Disney Junior
  • DisneyXD
  • E!
  • ESPN
  • ESPN 2
  • ESPN Bases Loaded
  • ESPN College Extra
  • ESPN Goal Line
  • ESPNews
  • ESPNU
  • Food Network
  • FOX
  • Fox Business
  • Fox News
  • FS1
  • FS2
  • Freeform
  • FX
  • FXM
  • FXX
  • Golf Channel
  • HGTV
  • The History Channel
  • HLN
  • Investigation Discovery
  • Lifetime
  • MotorTrend
  • MSNBC
  • MTV
  • NASA TV
  • National Geographic
  • Nat Geo Wild
  • NBCSN
  • Nickelodeon
  • Nick Jr.
  • NFL Network
  • NFL Red Zone
  • Olympic Channel
  • Oxygen
  • Paramount Network
  • Pop
  • QVC
  • SEC Network
  • Smithsonian Channel
  • SYFY
  • TBS
  • TCM
  • Telemundo
  • TLC
  • TNT
  • Travel Channel
  • truTV
  • TV Land
  • Universal Kids
  • USA Network
  • VH1
  • Viceland

How much does Hulu Plus Live TV cost?

Hulu Plus Live TV is offered through three plans:

  • Hulu Plus Live TV — $76.99/mo
    • Includes Hulu (with ads), Disney Plus (with ads), ESPN Plus (with ads), 75 live channels, two simultaneous screens, and 50 hours of DVR storage.
  • Hulu Plus Live TV (no ads) — $89.99/mo
    • Includes Hulu (no ads), Disney Plus (no ads), ESPN Plus (with ads), 75 live channels, two simultaneous screens, and 50 hours of DVR storage.
  • Live TV Only —  $75.99/mo
    • Includes everything in the Hulu Plus Live TV plan except for access to the Hulu, Disney Plus, and ESPN Plus libraries.

All Hulu add-ons are available with Hulu Plus Live TV, as well as some that are available exclusively to Live TV subscribers, outlined below:

Network add-ons

  • 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
    • DIY
    • FYI
    • Great American Country
    • Lifetime Movies
    • Science

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

Where is Hulu Plus Live TV available?

As with the rest of Hulu, Hulu Plus Live TV is only available in the United States.

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!

Choose the plan you want, input your payment information, and you’re ready to stream. Each Hulu account gets 6 profiles.

Hulu Logo
Hulu
Hulu offers not only thousands of movies and TV shows to stream, it also has original shows and films like The Handmaid's Tale. You can upgrade to Hulu Plus Live TV to get live channels, including your local stations.

Can I get Hulu for free?

The Hulu streaming plans include a 30-day free trial, and the Hulu Plus 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. It’s also very easy to cancel Hulu, so you shouldn’t feel too afraid to give it a shot to see if you like it.

What devices does Hulu support?

Hulu devices

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.

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. As with most streaming services, there are a few hiccups, but you can fix Hulu when it’s not working pretty easily.

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)
  • Chromecast
  • 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)
  • TiVo
  • Vizio TVs (non SmartCast models)

What’s on Hulu?

Best romantic movies on Hulu stock photo

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

The Handmaid's Tale best Hulu shows

Hulu’s biggest draw (apart from the low price) is its incredible catalog of shows. Check out our full list of the best Hulu shows to learn more, but here’s a quick taste of what you can 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.
  • Only Murders in the Building — A comedy mystery about three true crime podcast fans investigating a murder in their apartment building — and creating a podcast of their own.
  • 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

Disney Plus Day Prey

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 the best Hulu movies to learn more.

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 sense of what’s available on the platform.

  • Prey — A prequel to the Predator franchise, this action film set in the 1700s sees the alien hunter face off against a young Comanche warrior trying to prove herself.
  • 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.
  • 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 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 global 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.

NetflixDisney PlusHuluMaxAmazon Prime Video
Pricing
Netflix
Basic with ads: $6.99/month
Standard: $15.49/month
Premium: $22.99/month
Disney Plus
Basic with ads: $7.99/month
Premium: $13.99/month
Premium: $139.99/year
Hulu
Hulu (with ads): $7.99/month or $79.99/year
Hulu (no ads): $17.99/month
Other add-ons available
Max
With ads: $9.99/month
Without ads: $15.99/month
Amazon Prime Video
Standalone: $8.99/month
With Prime: $14.99/month or $139.99/year
Other add-ons available
Streaming quality
Netflix
Basic with ads: SD
Basic: SD
Standard: HD
Premium: UHD (4K)
Disney Plus
Up to 4K
Hulu
Up to 4K
Max
With ads: HD
Without ads: Up to 4K
Amazon Prime Video
Up to 4K
Concurrent streams
Netflix
Basic with ads: 1
Basic: 1
Standard: 2
Premium: 4
Disney Plus
4
Hulu
Standard: 2
With $9.99 add-on: Unlimited
Max
3
Amazon Prime Video
3
Original programming
Netflix
Yes
Disney Plus
Yes
Hulu
Yes
Max
Yes
Amazon Prime Video
Yes
Offline viewing
Netflix
Yes
Disney Plus
Yes
Hulu
Yes (only on ad-free plans)
Max
Yes (only on ad-free plan)
Amazon Prime Video
Yes
Live TV
Netflix
No
Disney Plus
No
Hulu
Yes (only on Live TV plans)
Max
No
Amazon Prime Video
No
Other features
Netflix
Includes small mobile game catalog
Disney PlusHulu
Hulu (with ads) included in Disney Plus-Hulu-ESPN bundle.
Max
Ad-free plan includes day-and-date access to some Warner Bros. films.
Amazon Prime Video
Included in Amazon Prime
Free trial?
Netflix
No
Disney Plus
No
Hulu
Yes, up to 30 days
Max
No
Amazon Prime Video
Yes, 30 days

NetflixDisney PlusHuluMaxAmazon Prime Video

Other frequently asked questions

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.

While original shows and movies are offered in 4K, most syndicated content is limited to HD quality.

You can download shows, but only on the ad-free plans. Learn more here.

Yes, you can share an account. Learn more here.

It has ads on its cheapest plan to keep the price as low as possible.

It’s easy to clear your history on the service. Learn more here.

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!

Would you recommend Hulu to a friend?

53 votes

Is the pricing fair for what Hulu has to offer?

45 votes

Which Hulu plan is best?

191 votes

What device/platform do you use Hulu on primarily?

104 votes

Any streaming services you'd recommend over Hulu?

60 votes