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Sunday, August 14, 2022

How does Hulu work? pricing, plans, channels, and how to get it

Hulu is one of the most popular streaming services around for a number of good reasons. With an extensive library of TV shows, movies, and plenty of original content, there’s no shortage of perks. Navigating the streaming service can be tricky for beginners, however, so if you have questions about pricing, signing up for a subscription, or using the site and app, you’ve come to the right place.

We’ll cover everything for you in this complete guide to Hulu and Hulu With Live TV: content, features, technical requirements, cost, and more — there’s a lot to go over. Settle in, get acquainted, and grab the Snuggie and popcorn, because you won’t be able to resist a good binge session if you end up subscribing.

And while you’re reading all this, keep in mind that the Disney Bundle is a thing. That’s the mash-up that’ll get you Hulu, Disney+, and ESPN+ for just $15 a month — essentially giving you all three services for the price of just two of them.

What is Hulu?

Hulu homepage on a TV with Only Murders in the Building cast.
Hulu

Hulu is an on-demand video service available in the U.S., Puerto Rico, and Japan that allows users to stream popular TV shows. Early in 2021, the service expanded internationally through its parent company, The Walt Disney Company, which launched an offshoot service, Star, through its Disney Plus platform to customers in Canada, Western Europe, Australia, the U.K., and parts of Asia-Pacific. Hulu focuses primarily on streaming newer TV shows from many popular network broadcasters, original content, blockbuster and independent films, and documentaries.

The platform differs from other well-known streaming sites such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video in that it gives people early access to popular series from multiple traditional networks. You typically only have to wait a week — and in some cases, just a day — to watch episodes of popular broadcast TV series after they’ve aired. Unlike cable, there are no hidden fees, equipment rentals, or installation appointments associated with a Hulu subscription. You can watch Hulu at home or on the go via many of your favorite streaming devices.

In 2019, Hulu added the ability to download and watch content offline, something that users of other streaming services have been able to do for years. Viewers can download up to 25 titles across five different devices and have up to 30 days to watch their downloaded content in their streaming library. Once a title is started, you have 48 hours to finish it or the download will expire and you’ll have to download it again. The feature is limited to Hulu’s ad-free plans (more on these plans below).

As mentioned, Hulu also has a growing lineup of exclusive original content such as the award-winning drama series The Handmaid’s Tale, hip-hop docuseries Wu-Tang: An American Saga, and more.

Find something to watch

What is Hulu With Live TV?

The live guide on Hulu With Live TV.
Phil Nickinson/Digital Trends

Hulu With Live TV basic is Hulu’s $70-per-month streaming service, which allows subscribers to watch live and on-demand TV programming from more than 90 live TV channels, including local news and live sports, along with everything you’ll get from Hulu’s on-demand tier mentioned above. Plus, Hulu With Live TV subscriptions also automatically net you Disney+ and ESPN+ as well. Additionally, you can throw down an extra $6 per month for the same bundle but with the no-ad version of Hulu at $76 per month.

Hulu With Live TV’s channel lineup includes popular entertainment channels like Bravo, MTV, TBS, TNT, and Comedy Central; educational channels like Discovery and History; sports channels like ESPN and FS1; news channels like CNN and Fox News; and family-friendly channels like Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, and Nickelodeon. Additionally, there’s the no-ad premium Hulu With Live TV for $76 a month, which is the same but with, you guessed it, no ads. You can also pay extra for premium channels like HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, and Starz.

Hulu With Live TV is comparable to other services like Sling TV or YouTube TV that allow access to live programming without a cable or satellite subscription. Like those other services, Hulu With Live TV is not without its kinks. The streaming quality for live programs often is not as good as cable and may suffer from slower internet speeds or during high-traffic periods, though this can be true for almost any live TV streaming service.

To watch on a computer, head to the Hulu With Live TV website at new.hulu.com. From here, you’ll see your options for on-demand content, as you would with a regular Hulu subscription, but you’ll also see a Live TV button at the top of the screen.

Hulu + Live TV navigation.

There’s been a bit of a schism in the Hulu universe as the company migrated from its “classic” experience to its new “full” experience. If you’re only using Hulu on devices where the full experience is supported, you shouldn’t run into problems. If you’re using some devices where only the older Hulu app is supported, you might run into trouble: The old-style Watchlist and the new My Stuff don’t integrate very well. As Hulu continues to roll out updates to its full experience, we expect this area to continue to improve.

Those updates happen quite frequently as Hulu tries out changes to its user interface. Recently, the company made its menu options more comfortable to read by eliminating a transparency effect that reduced the text’s legibility. It also added like and dislike buttons, a valuable feedback system for Hulu to help shape your recommendations with more precision.

Which devices can I use?

As listed on Hulu’s website, Hulu and Hulu With Live TV are available on a wide range of popular streaming devices, including both Android and iOS devices, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Fire tablets, Google’s Chromecast devices, Android TV, Google TV, Mac and PC browsers, select LG and Samsung smart TV platforms, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, and more. For gamers, Hulu With Live TV is available on Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5.

How much does Hulu cost?

The traditional Hulu streaming service provides the Basic subscriber ad-supported tier for $7 per month ($70 per year) and an ad-free Premium version for $13 per month (which we think is well worth the money). However, Disney recently announced that beginning October 10, 2022, these prices will be going up to $8 per month for Basic ($80 annually) and $15 per month for the ad-free Premium (no annual price was announced), so you might want to jump on the current prices fast.

Hulu With Live TV is still $70 per month, however, and currently comes with Disney+ and ESPN+. This includes the ad-supported streaming option, 50 hours of cloud DVR storage, and the ability to watch on two screens concurrently. Add another $6 for the premium ad-free tier if you’d prefer to go without continual nagging to buy something. There is also a Hulu With Live TV option without Disney+ and ESPN+ for $68.99 per month if you prefer.

Hulu is a Disney property, and Disney offers a special deal in which you can bundle all of its streaming services — Hulu (with ads), Disney+, and ESPN+ — and pay just $14 per month. That’s $8 less than you would pay if you got them all individually. If you really can’t stand ads, you can get the same bundle with the no-ad version of Hulu for $28.

However again, as part of the announcement mentioned above, Disney said it will also be launching a new ad-supported Disney+ plan on December 8, 2022, which will not only offer those interested in the Disney+ service to save some cash (it will reportedly cost just $8 per month compared to its current ad-free version, which is getting a price bump to $11 as well), but a whole new range of Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ bundles will be available, too.

Add-ons

The HBO Max app on a TV screen while purple lights illuminate the wall behind.
Thibault Penin/Unsplash

There’s more than enough to get lost with on Hulu, but you can add even more through premium channels available as add-ons. If your motivation for cutting the cord rests in financials, be warned: Things can get pretty pricey going this route. Hulu subscribers have the option of adding monthly subscriptions like HBO Max ($15), Cinemax ($10), Starz ($9), or Showtime ($11) on top of their existing Hulu subscription.

As for Hulu With Live TV, while the service comes with 50 hours of online cloud storage, users can purchase 200 hours of online DVR storage space for $10 per month with the Enhanced Cloud DVR Add-on. A standard Hulu account comes with a limit of two screens to watch the service simultaneously, but this can be upgraded to unlimited screens at home or three on the go for another $15. Fortunately, if you want both, Hulu takes $10 off the price, letting you bundle both for $15 per month on top of your subscription instead of $25.

For those without cable, any of these subscriptions could be a worthwhile addition. They offer access to countless hours of content, including unique series found nowhere else. While subscriptions can be a bit pricey, putting up with ads and fewer available screens can make both services pretty affordable. But don’t forget to factor in the cost of your internet connection.

What about Disney+?

It’s hard to have missed the news that Disney+ is raising prices and adding an ad-supported tier. And as the controlling shareholder in Hulu, we expected Disney to continue to leverage the TV streaming service to promote its new offerings with its bundles. You can bundle Disney+ with ESPN+ and Hulu for a discount on the streaming cocktail — but you can’t currently add Disney+ to Hulu as you would HBO Max or Showtime.

To be clear, a potential marriage between the two isn’t entirely off the table, especially with Hulu’s gradual maturation under Disney’s stewardship. For now, Disney+ is entirely self-contained within its specific app, and you’ll even have different bills to manage if you’re taking advantage of the Disney bundle as an existing Hulu customer. Disney hasn’t revealed any plans for that to change in the foreseeable future, so for now, you can treat Disney+ as an entirely separate beast.

Are you interested in visiting the digital Magic Kingdom? Here’s how to get Disney+, and don’t forget to check out the Disney bundle if you’re a subscriber to all three.

The need for speed?

You can stream Hulu and Hulu With Live TV at a few different quality levels that adjust automatically according to the speed of your internet. Hulu advises that you have at least a download speed of 6Mbps for Hulu in HD and 8Mbps for Hulu With Live TV. You’ll need extra bandwidth if you want to stream to more than one device successfully or if you want to take advantage of Hulu’s limited 4K content.

Here are the internet connection speeds necessary for Hulu:

  • Standard definition: 1.5Mbps
  • 720p HD: 3Mbps
  • 1080p HD: 6Mbps
  • Hulu With Live TV: 8Mbps
  • Ultra HD 4K: 16Mbps

How do you get it?

It’s easy to register for Hulu on either a smartphone or a computer. Navigate to hulu.com/welcome and go through the prompts on the screen. For easy payments, connect your Hulu account to your Apple or Android account. Hulu also has an easy sign-up process for mobile and TV apps.

You don’t need to sign any contracts or long-term commitments, such as you would with traditional TV, to use Hulu. You can even take advantage of Hulu’s seven-day free trial and then cancel the service without any payment at all — though you still need to enter your credit card information when you register. If you should ever need to cancel your subscription, it’s an easy process online or with customer service, and Hulu will save your account information if you ever decide to sign up again.

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