Everything you need to know before signing up to Hulu
There's plenty of streaming options now available so which one you opt for will mostly come down to personal preference on content or price although there are other aspects to also consider, such as device support. One of the more popular options currently available is Hulu and this is a service that's available in different tiers to suit the needs of different users.
Here we’ll look to explain those options so you know exactly why you are signing up to before you sign up.
What devices does Hulu support?
Like any good streaming service, Hulu is available on a wide range of devices through the corresponding apps. These include Android smartphones and tablets, Amazon Fire TV devices, Roku devices, as well as select LG and Samsung TVs.
Support is also available for Amazon’s Echo Show, Google’s Chromecast, Apple TV (fourth gen and newer) and select iPhone models. In addition to the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 3 and 4, as well as Microsoft's Xbox 360 and One.
Hulu can also be accessed via many of these devices, as well as PCs through a web browser.
Important point on device support
You may have noticed some devices, including Android TV is missing from the list above. The reason for this is the newer Hulu app does not currently support a number of devices, including Android TV devices. Instead, these devices will have to use what Hulu refers to as its “Classic” app.
Device support for the Classic app includes all Android TV devices (set-top box and TVs powered by Android TV), 2nd & 3rd generation Apple TV, as well as select Roku models, select LG/Samsung/Sony/Vizio TVs, select LG/Samsung/Sony Blu-ray players, as well as TiVo, and Nintendo’s Wii U.
Devices with support limited to the Classic app cannot access most of the newer and advanced features, including premium networks and live TV.
How much is Hulu?
Hulu is a no-commitment subscription service where you pay monthly and can cancel whenever you like. So you are free to try any of the various tier plans and either move to a different plan the next month or cancel Hulu altogether.
The standard plan - $7.99 per month
The entry-level option is the standard Hulu plan. This one comes in at $7.99 per month and for that price you get access to all of the Hulu on-demand catalog. So there’s no issue or restrictions on the content in spite of this being the cheapest option.
This is a subsidized plan as it also makes use of ads to drive down the overall cost to the user, bringing it down to $7.99.
This is the plan Hulu used to market as “limited ads” as the ads are not quite to the level seen with typical cable network access. But, there are still there and probably more than what your definition of “limited” might suggest.
Pros: Cheap. Unlimited access to content. Wide selection of content.
Cons: Ads. Only one stream at a time. Emphasis on TV shows.
The no-ads plan - $11.99 per month
If ads really are not for you, then Hulu does offer the option to go ad-free with "Hulu (No Ads)". This method does see the price go up to $11.99 per month. So you end up paying $4 more per month to skip the ads.
What’s more, that is pretty much all you are paying for as the no-ad option offers no other notable differences compared to the ad-supported plan. It provides access to the same content without restriction, and is limited to the same number of feeds. Opting for this plan does not give you anything more than the ad-supported plan besides the removal of ads.
It’s also important to note the ad-free version is not totally free of ads. As the service is required to serve ads when showing select content from select providers. On these occasions, Hulu limits the showing of ads to before and after the content. There’s no ads during the content.
Pros: No ads. Unlimited access to content. Wide selection of content.
Cons: Not totally ad-free. Only one stream at a time. Same emphasis on TV shows.
Live TV plan - starting from $39.99 per month
This is more of a newer service for Hulu and aimed at those who are looking to cut the cord but keep access to their favorite live TV networks and shows. This is Hulu’s "Hulu + Live TV" option.
This one comes in at $39.99 per month and provides access to a decent range of networks, including the various properties owned by ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC. As well as access to other channels and networks you might not get with some of the competing cord-cutting options at a similar price point, including ID and Discovery.
Where this plan really offers value compared to competing live TV streaming services is you also get the standard Hulu plan thrown in for free. That’s the ad-supported version and that alone makes the $39.99 cost a very attractive one, as few services offer access to live TV and as much of a back catalog of on-demand content as Hulu does with this plan.
There’s also the option to go ad-free where you get all of the live TV content and the ‘no ads’ version of Hulu for $43.99 per month. Basically $3 more for no ads with on-demand content.
As the live TV content is shown live, there’s no escaping these ads. The ad-free element only applies to the content available through the Hulu (No Ads) option.
One of the downsides of this wealth of content for a low price is that you don’t get much in the way of additional features. They are available, but you have to pay for them. The two main ones are Cloud DVR and the number of streams.
Cloud DVR: As standard, the Hulu with Live TV option comes with 50 hours of Cloud DVR storage available at no extra charge. If you need more than that then you have the option to add the “enhanced” add-on for an additional $14.99 per month.
Number of streams: Compared to the non-TV plans, Hulu + Live TV does let you stream simultaneously on two devices. If you are in need of even more same-time streams you will have to pay for them. The "Unlimited Screens” add-on costs $14.99 per month.
Cloud DVR + Unlimited Streams: If both of these sounds more like what you are after then Hulu offers a single add-on that adds both for just $20 per month. This makes the most sense for busy households and offers the best value.
Pros: Great selection of content. Competitively priced. Cloud DVR and multiple screen support available.
Cons: Can be expensive if you want a fuller experience.
One of the good things about Hulu is that it lets you add premium network access to any of its plans. So even if you have opted to save by going with the cheapest, ad-supported Hulu plan, you still can add premium networks to your monthly bill.
Premium networks offered by Hulu include HBO ($14.99 per month), Cinemax ($19.99 per month), SHOWTIME ($10.99 per month, and Starz ($8.99 per month).
Hulu has enough pricing options that it will appeal to the different needs of different consumers and it is clear the more you invest financially in the service the more you get.
For example, if you go all-in with the live TV option and with the combined DVR and screen option then you will end up with a very robust plan that provides not only unlimited access to live TV, on unlimited screens, and enough DVR to save all your favorite shows, but you’ll also get access to the wider Hulu world.
All-in, this is a very good package and more than enough content for most people.
The downside, however, is all that comes at a minimum cost of $60 per month.
If you are an Android TV user, this is not likely to be the best live TV service for you although the non-live TV plans will work just fine. Albeit with a dated and slightly difficult interface to navigate.
Try for free
Like most streaming services, Hulu offers a free trial so interested consumers can see if this is the right option for them. However, the free trial does vary a little depending on whether you want access to live TV or not.
Those simply interested in the standard on-demand Hulu service, with or without ads, can take advantage of a one-month free trial. The free period begins immediately after signing up and the first month is automatically billed on the same date of the following month. You can cancel your subscription at anytime within the month and still have access to the service for the remainder of the period without having to worry about forgetting to cancel.
If you opt for the live TV plan (with or without Hulu ads) you will only receive a seven-day free trial to test the service. Once again, you can cancel at anytime during those seven days and still enjoy the service for the rest of the week without worrying about automatic billing.
All of the premium subscriptions (HBO, Cinemax, SHOWTIME and STARZ) are also available with a seven-day free trial. While the live TV add-ons (Enhanced Cloud DVR and Unlimited Screens) are available with a thirty-day free trial.
Regardless of which Hulu plan and customizations you opt for, you do have to provide a payment option up front.