Hulu offers something for everyone. It remains a great, cheap catch-up TV portal. With the Live TV offering it’s a legit way to replace your binding cable and satellite subscription altogether. The line-up of Hulu Originals is improving, and the bundles with Disney Plus are good value. However, the ad-supported content is so tedious. Be careful what you wish for Netflix users.
- Wide array of content and subscription options
- Disney Plus bundle is good value
- Ever-improving originals
- Live TV is a legit alternative to satellite and cable
- Offline downloads
- Not available outside USA
- ‘With Ads’ is just too many ads
- No Dolby Atmos and limited 4K HDR content
- 4K HDR4K HDR available on most Hulu Originals, with limited supported devices
- Offline downloadsMobile apps provide good support for playback when not connected
- Original contentGrowing array of originals include The Handmaid’s Tale, Pam & Tommy, Only Murders In The Building and The Dropout
- Live TVHulu Live TV is a great way to ditch your legacy cable and satellite provider with no-commitment monthly plans.
The OG! Hulu broke the stranglehold of TV-by-appointment. DVR, downloads, and piracy helped, but Hulu sparked the revolution. Suddenly, you could legally watch the best of last night’s telly (and entire series) on your laptop.
It arrived launched in 2007 not to kill TV, but to save it. Streaming was in its infancy, Netflix had just started to offer it alongside discs, but this felt just as significant for viewers who loved what regular old TV was serving up. It was free too! Supported by ads, until subscriptions become mandatory from 2010.
An initial NBC and News Corp (Fox) joint venture, Disney joined in 2009 (ABC, ESPN, The Disney Channel). Flashforward to 2022 and it’s fully owned by Disney and has expanded significantly. Ad-supported and ad-free models are more robust and fleshed out. There’s acclaimed Hulu Originals like The Handmaid’s Tale and Only Murders In The Building, exclusive access to classic comedies, and a full Live TV service that rivals YouTube TV and Sling TV. You can even bundle it up with Disney Plus and ESPN+ and save a few dollars.
Many Hulu originals are available in 4K HDR, offline downloads are available on mobile apps for ad-free subscribers. The apps are available on most platforms and, for old times’ sake, on the web.
Can Hulu stand out in the era of Netflix, Disney Plus, HBO Max, and the multitude of streaming services that have flourished in its wake? Let’s find out.
Pricing and availability
Hulu is only available in the United States. Before we get into assessing its content offerings, Hulu has multiple offerings. Let’s look at what’s what.
Hulu (With Ads), Hulu (No Ads): The basic Hulu proposition remains on-demand TV from US networks, with Hulu Originals included. With Ads is $6.99. No Ads is $12.99.
The Disney Bundle: You can bundle Hulu, Disney Plus and ESPN Plus: these three services and save a few dollars in the process. Hulu With Ads/No Ads options are available at $13.99/$19.99. Hulu Originals included.
Hulu Live TV: A replacement for your current TV subscription with the major live channels. You also get Hulu, Disney Plus and ESPN Plus and Hulu Originals included. For a bundle with Hulu (With Ads) it’s $69.99 and Hulu (No Ads) is $75.99.
- Wide support on mobile, consoles and smart TV
- There’s a Switch app too!
Hulu is available in most of the major app stores but is still absent from some of the second tier smart TV platforms. However, if you have a set-top box or streaming stick from pretty much anyone else, you can access Hulu. There’s also AirPlay and Chromecast support within the mobile app to send content to supported television.
The official list of supported devices is as follows: iOS/iPadOS and Android phones and tablets, Android TV (select models), Apple TV (4th generation or later), Chromecast, Echo Show, Fire Tablets, Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, iPhones and iPads, LG TV (select models), Nintendo Switch, Mac and PC browsers/apps, PlayStation 3/4/5, Roku (select models), Samsung TV (select models), VIZIO SmartCast TVs, Xbox 360/One/Series S/X, Xfinity Flex Streaming TV Box, Xfinity X1 TV Boxes, Contour 2 and Contour Stream Player.
- Dedicated row for live content
- Collated rows to suit your habits
- No dedicated 4K HDR content portal
There’s nothing too remarkable about the Hulu interface. Content is logically arranged in categories, with a menu at the top of the display. It separates TV, Movies, Sports, News, My Stuff and various Hubs from the content providers. The Home page itself is headlined by one rotating piece of content Hulu is promoting. Pretty standard stuff these days.
Below that is the ‘Live Now’ row with content identified by a green lightning bolt, which is mainly ESPN+ programming for subscribers. Having the ESPN+ content within the main Hulu app is a bonus that means you don’t have to switch apps. Hulu subscribers also get the ABC News channel live.
Collated rows include recommended TV and movies ‘For You’ and a row for ‘Keep Watching’. However, the latter should be at the top, enabling viewers to pick-up their shows easily. You’ll also see some ‘Because You Watched…’ recommendations and some Hulu picks.
Hulu also pulls out ‘Full Series’ of dramas and comedies if you want to blitz something from the start, while there’s also hubs like Hulu Originals, Reality TV (there’s seriously a lot of this on Hulu), True Crime, Teen Dramas, etc.
As with HBO Max, there’s not really an easy way to discover the 4K HDR content. Maybe because there isn’t that much of it? However, it would be nice to see Hulu showcase it in some way.
Like Netflix, Hulu users have the option to add a show to ‘My Stuff’, and like or dislike to inform recommendations. Hulu also offers a Watch Party feature within the show or movie’s title page, but we’ll get to that in the Features section.
Content pages also offer access to ‘You May Also Like’ recommendations, ‘Extras’ and ‘Details’. You’ll also see, where available, 4K, HDR, and Dolby 5.1 sound support referenced within title pages.
Hulu’s playback interface is largely consistent across mobile apps, the web and the TV apps with the ability to cycle back and forth ten seconds, start over, play next, play picture-in-picture, adjust audio and titles and scrub along the playback bar. There are various means of viewing the series details, episode description, add content to My Stuff, or share the episode (on mobile).
- 4K HDR for most original shows
- Awkward Watch Party feature
- Offline downloads available on mobile
As most broadcast and cable networks don’t shoot in 4K yet, 4K content is limited to the stuff Hulu makes. Pam & Tommy, The Dropout, The Handmaid’s Tale, Castle Rock, etc. You can get Hulu 4K on a limited number of devices, including:
- Apple TV (5th generation or later)
- Google Chromecast Ultra
- Fire TV, Fire Cube and Fire TV Stick (4K models)
- LG TVs (2017 UHD models or later)
- Vizio SmartCast TVs
- Xbox One S/X, Xbox Series X
Hulu added HDR support for some of its original 4K content in the summer of 2021. What support there is (HDR10, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision) is on most Hulu originals. It’s only available on a select few devices, and you’ll need a TV that supports HDCP 2.2.
- Roku (HDR compatible models)
- Fire TV, Fire TV Stick, Fire TV Cube (HDR compatible models with Fire OS 6 or later)
- Apple TV 4K (Gen 5 or later)
- Vizio (HDR compatible models)
- Chromecast Ultra (HDR-compatible models)
The 4K UHD offerings are more in line with HBO Max, rather than the abundance of 4K content available on Disney Plus and Netflix. Unfortunately, for high-end AV connoisseurs, there’s no Dolby Atmos support on any of the Hulu apps right now, but if you have a capable sound system, you can at least get 5.1 sound.
Hulu also offers a Watch Party feature. The icon appears next to compatible content and tapping it to Start The Party conjures a unique link you can share with fellow viewers. Once everyone has joined, the host can start the party. It’s far from a seamless experience. You can’t start or join a watch party from the TV, for instance, and it’s difficult to get content to sync perfectly. It also supports Apple SharePlay.
The mobile apps offer offline downloads and when you visit the downloads tab, and there’s a handy “see what’s downloadable” button, showcasing series and movies. You’ll see the download icon next to an episode listing. Once complete, videos expire 30 days after download or 2 days after playback. However, you can renew when you’re back online.
Parental controls are possible by creating a Kids profile to ensure only wholesome content is shown and adding pin protection to existing adult profiles.
The basic Hulu on-demand library is a rotating selection when it comes to network and cable TV, given so many of the content providers have now set up shop for themselves. Hulu keeps some of this content back for subscribers to the Live TV platform (more on that below). Here’s a selection of what you get with a standard Hulu subscription on top of the great Hulu Originals.
Adult Swim: Rick & Morty
ABC: Scrubs, Modern Family
AMC: The Walking Dead, Killing Eve
BBC America: Peep Show, The F Word,
Bravo: Real Housewives of lots of places
CBS: Frasier, Bluebloods, Survivor
Comedy Central: Workaholics, Key & Peele, Broad City
E!: Loads of Kardashians stuff
Food Network: Worst Cooks In America
Fox: Family Guy, 911, WWE Smackdown, 24
FX: It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. Archer, American Horror Story, The League
History: Pawn Stars, Vikings
MTV: Catfish, Jersey Shore, Teenwolf
Nat Geo Wild/National Geographic: To Catch A Smuggler, Extreme Rescues
NBC: Saturday Night Live, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, 30 Rock
Showtime: Homeland, Weeds, The L Word
TNT: The Librarians
USA: WWE Raw
VH1: Ru Paul’s Drag Race
If you’re a subscriber to the $6.99 With Ads tier or associated bundles, be prepared for a lot of ads. Even a 20-minute episode of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia feels besieged by unskippable ads. If you’re the type of person who likes to watch a quick episode before bed, this is incredibly annoying and, for me, not worth it. No ads or no Hulu for me.
With a basic Hulu subscription, you’ll get a rotating array of movies from the networks, as well as Hulu Originals like Deep Water. At the time of writing (mid-April 2022), you can choose from the likes of Death on the Nile, The Five-Year Engagement, Juno, As Good As It Gets, Sideways, The Princess Pride, Practical Magic, Moneyball, What Men Can’t Jump, Monster Family 2, Easy A, Deadpool, I Tonya, The King’s Man. For $7 a month, there’s plenty to get through.
Hulu Live TV
Hulu offers Live TV too with over 75 channels available, plus add-ons. It’s like the service has come full circle. You still access all of the on-demand stuff, but this opens up the pay TV entertainment, news, and sports channels you’d get from a cable or satellite subscription.
It costs from $69.99 a month with ads, Disney+ and ESPN+ ($75.99 with no ads) plus regular old Hulu. That makes it a direct rival to the likes of Sling TV, YouTube TV and fuboTV.
Importantly, subscribers will get access to their local affiliate channels too, so the likes of CBS, Fox, NBC and ABC will have local news content, for example. This makes it a great option for cable cutters, but is also a standard feature these days.
The biggest reason to sign up for Live TV is Live Sports. Sports channels include ESPN (2, News, U), FS1/2, NFL Network, the Golf Channel and CBS Sports, meaning you’ll get nationally televised NFL, NBA, NHL, MLS, MLB, English Premier League, college sports, the golf and tennis majors, and the major college sports. With ESPN+ also included as part of this subscription, you’ll get even more.
The interface is much improved, which is handy for the stuff Hulu doesn’t automatically archive. Anything you save will be available in the unlimited cloud DVR for 9 months.
- 4K HDR content looks great, but more big movies please
- Excellent offline downloads and reliable app experience
4K HDR content is limited to Hulu Originals, but looked wonderful on my 65-inch OLED LG C1 connected to an Apple TV 4K (2021). However, as it is mainly New York architecture and the interior of a plush apartment buildings in Only Murders In The Building, it’s not really the type of content you want to watch in 4K HDR.
As much as I enjoyed Pam & Tommy from an aesthetic sense, this Hulu Original could have done more with the grimy Sunset Strip and beautiful Malibu locales. I’d love to see the company add to the array of 4K content with big blockbuster movies, like HBO Max and Disney Max have for its DC and Marvel collections.
Hulu recommends 8Mbps for live streams and 16Mbps minimum for 4K HDR content, which wasn’t really an issue with my 90Mbps average connection. The lack of Dolby Atmos sound wasn’t a miss for me, but dialogue was crisp, clear and well balanced from my Sonos soundbar.
The app handles everything asked of it without any crashes on TV and on mobile and offline downloads work as advertised. As you’d expect, the app remembers your last viewing position regardless of whether you’re watching on another device.
Should you buy it?
The much-improved Live TV service (with Hulu, ESPN+ and Disney Plus) is a great way to cut the cable, while Hulu with Ads is excellent value for $7 a month with some great originals. If you mostly watch content broadcast on TV then, it’s hard to say no.
If you’re just bored of what TV serves-up these days. The abundant reality/trash TV, the network comedies, the late-night talk shows, etc. you can swerve Hulu and not miss much. Also, if you’re ad adverse, the cheaper offering definitely isn’t for you.
Hulu provides a very varied proposition depending on what you’re interested in so it’s hard to pigeonhole it and cast an overriding judgement.
However, the Disney Bundle with Hulu ESPN Plus and Disney Plus is probably the best value and most appealing. There’s a bit of everything there, and if you can spring for the No Ads version, at $19.99, even better.
Hulu on its own is for telly addicts who like to watch regular TV on their own time, but the Originals are really making waves too. In my opinion, they certainly beat out most of what Netflix is offering. They’re more thought provoking and higher brow.
Live TV, for me, doesn’t quite hit the heights of YouTube TV in terms of personalising content and displaying it neatly in a user-friendly interface.
Hulu has something for everyone, but in the end, it probably isn’t everything you need.
How we test
We test every video streaming service we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.
Tested on 2021 4K Ultra HD TV
Tested with mobile apps and Smart TV systems
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No, Hulu is only available to subscribers in the United States
New subscribers can get a free, 30-day trial to Hulu