Just like ourselves, our technology has evolved too! Setting foot in the world of entertainment used to be a tall order but now, even your toddler would know how to put on some cartoons or play ‘Moana’ on your phone. From the primitive Octagon TV box to the vintage Raytheon to Sony’s Trinitron TV to Plasma TVs, and now, just about any screen, we’ve come a long, long way! The rise of the Internet paved way for endless possibilities in the digital world, including online media streaming. Cord-cutting has become the new norm while cable TV has failed to perform.
Until a decade ago, Netflix was the sole superjock in the streaming domain. And as with any novel business scenario, other players popped up in no time, setting themselves apart in terms of service and offerings. These services pushed entertainment buffs towards the binging-edge, and away from being goof-offs. Hulu, the brainchild of Hulu LLC, came up soon after Netflix and tasted success in no time. However, if you see a cable TV alternative in Hulu, we’d like you to know a couple of things before you jump on the cord-cutters’ bandwagon.
Hulu Basic Info:
With a wide range of content (especially TV series) made available to the users, Hulu truly stands up to it’s name. In case you’re not aware, Hulu literally means a “bottle gourd” in Mandarin, and was used to accommodate all things precious in ancient times. A joint venture between Hulu LLC, the Walt Disney Company, 21st Century Fox, Comcast, and Time Warner, the service kicked off with the motive of providing TV fiends with the latest as well as all the past episodes of their favorite shows from the biggest TV networks.
At first, Hulu was available in two different versions – a free one and a paid one. The free version was simply known as Hulu while the paid version was called Hulu Plus. Under the former version, users could access free content only through their computers. Also, the quality of content was quite crummy. Soon, Hulu decided to quit cold on free content and strung it out to Yahoo! as a collaboration, called “Yahoo! View”.
Today, Hulu Plus is rebranded to “Hulu” and irrespective of what plan you subscribe to, you can watch the content on an array of devices so long as you’re connected to a steady internet. Earlier this year, the company also introduced a much-awaited service called “Hulu Live” for those who prefer Live TV over on-demand content.
Now that you have a fair idea regarding what’s on the Hulu platter, let’s delve a bit deeper into the details.
Hulu’s Pricing Tiers: Cost & Features:
Hulu’s on-demand content is available under two different plans –
- Limited Commercials: Priced at $7.99 per month. Under this plan, users can get access to unlimited content. However, the shows are interrupted with brief ads throughout.
- No Commercials: Priced at $11.99 per month. Under this plan, users can watch all the content without being bothered by commercials. However, note that certain shows like New Girl, Grey’s Anatomy, and S.H.I.E.L.D., are not included in this plan due to streaming rights and a short ad will be played before and after each episode.
You can add features such as “Showtime”, “Cinemax”, and “HBO” for an additional cost to either of these plans.
Whichever plan you choose, the video quality would still be pretty awesome. Plus, you can also opt for a 30-day free trial to help you decide if Hulu is for you, without paying for it of course. Also, most movie titles don’t play any commercial, not even under the “limited commercials” plan. So if you’re a movie buff, you have no reason to worry about the annoying ads. Another important thing to note is that Hulu allows users to stream on-demand content on only one screen at a time.
Hulu’s latest, all-encompassing, and highly popular plan, “Hulu with Live TV” is priced at $39.99 per month. Here’s what you get with this plan:
- Live streaming from over 50 channels including news and sports networks.
- Hulu’s on-demand content
- Full seasons of Hulu Originals
- 50 hours’ worth of storage on Cloud DVR
- 7-day free trial period
- 2 Simultaneous streams
You may also add the following at an additional cost:
- Unlimited screens
- 200 Hours of Storage on Cloud DVR
Any of the above mentioned plans can be cancelled or upgraded at any time.
Availability as Per Region:
As of now, Hulu is accessible only in the U.S. and Japan (different version). However, rumor has it that the company is making efforts to expand into other countries.
What Can You Watch?
Although Hulu’s USP lies in providing access to the latest episodes of TV series, you’ll also find interesting documentaries, popular movies from partner channels, original shows, and syndicated TV shows, thanks to Hulu’s ownership. As of today, Hulu boasts of more than 86,000 episodes and over 2,500 flicks from well-loved channels like NBC, Comedy Central, ABC, CBS, Fox TV, BBC, A&E, and Disney.
Some of the most popular shows on the platform include South Park, America’s Got Talent, Family Guy, Seinfeld, and Fear the Walking Dead. Similar to Netflix, Hulu has also invested quite a bit into making original series. Shows like the Handmaid’s Tale, The Path, Casual, The Mindy Project, went onto gaining a lot of appreciation from users. You’ll also find highly rated movies such as The Babadook, The Usual Suspects, Creed, Cloverfield, Almost Famous, Iron Man, and American Beauty.
Love Anime? Well, you’ll be surprised with how many Anime titles Hulu has to offer. Not many people know this but Hulu flaunts over 400 Anime titles across a slew of genres. The most trending ones are Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, Akame Ga Kill, No Game No Life, and One Punch Man.
What’s more? Hulu also has a decent collection of foreign films such as Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Force Majeure, The Queen of Versailles, Melancholia, and Blackfish, thanks to their deal with Magnolia Pictures. Plus, you’ll also find famous documentaries like He Named Me Malala, Sky Line, The Last Reef, and Cat Show, by virtue of their agreement with IFC Films, part of the AMC network.
Hulu Live TV offers a huge channel line-up (50+), aside from everything mentioned above. You can stream live content from channels like ABC, CBS, Fox, FX, ESPN, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, CNBC, Bravo, A&E, History, Viceland, Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, TNT, CNN, and Showtime (extra charges – $8.99/month). Also, if you love HBO shows like Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead, you can now watch it by adding HBO to any of the plans.
Where Can You Watch?
No matter what plan you choose, you can enjoy Hulu’s content on almost any type of device. The service is supported on iOS, Android, and Windows smartphones/tablets, Mac as well as Windows laptops and desktops, gaming consoles like Xbox one and One S, and media streaming players such as Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Google Chromecast.
Insights on Interface:
Hulu’s interface, both, on the web as well as on the app, is one of the friendliest we’ve ever come across. Having said that, it is a bit layered due to the different services offered. If you’re familiar with other streaming services, you’ll learn of Hulu’s idiosyncrasies in no time. If not, it’ll only take a couple of minutes until you figure stuff out.
Until last year, we held a slightly negative opinion regarding the design and layout of the platform. However, after Hulu launched Live TV (BETA) this year, the interface and design underwent a complete overhaul, with an attractive color scheme and an even easier to use interface. They’ve even rectified long-standing peeves such as blank screens and low volume.
One feature that stood out for us is the favorites list section right at the top, displaying what you were watching and indicating the point at which you stopped watching it. This helps you to continue from where you left off, instead of watching it from the beginning. Moreover, browsing through content is fairly easy since everything is organized as per different categories. You can filter content as per genre, TV network, or even use Hulu’s sub-categories such as Trending Now, Workplace Romance, Best of the Week, Emmy Nominees, Reality Hits, Popular Shows, etc.
The search bar on certain devices, especially media streaming players, is a boon. It comes up with relevant suggestions as soon as you start typing in the title. This saves a lot of time and effort. On the homepage, Hulu displays all the recent additions so you stay updated at all times.
One thing that we found missing was HD quality in some titles. Unlike it’s contenders, Hulu does not offer all it’s content in HD. Also, users don’t have the option of downloading content for viewing in offline mode.
Hulu Against Netflix –
We’ve stacked up Hulu against it’s biggest contender, Netflix, to give you a better idea about where Hulu stands. Note that we’re not taking Hulu’s Live TV feature into consideration for the purpose of comparison since Netflix only offers on-demand videos.
Plans and Pricing: Firstly, Hulu’s price tiers hinge on commercials or the lack thereof. On the other hand, Netflix’s plans are based on video quality and the number of screens one can stream on simultaneously. As far as pricing is concerned, there’s not much of a difference since the basic and the premium on both the platforms actually cost the same; i.e. $7.99 and $11.99 per month. Netflix has a middle tier, priced at $9.99/month, in addition to the basic and premium one. Netflix has an edge over Hulu when it comes to plans because irrespective of which plan you opt; the content will be ad-free.
Content: The other major differentiator is in terms of content variety and freshness. Netflix has a great selection of movies. Aside from that you’ll also find some amazing documentaries across a range of genres. Recently, the company has invested about 6 billion dollars for producing original content. Netflix originals have gained worldwide popularity with some excellent quality series such as Orange is the New Black, Black Mirror, 13 Reasons Why, Stranger Things, House of Cards, and Dear White People. However, some of the syndicated shows are quite old and the new episodes aren’t added until a year post the official airing in order to promote binge-watching. Moreover, Netflix has huge collection of 4K content in their database.
Hulu on the contrary, adds the latest episodes in as little time as one day after it has been broadcasted on TV. The platform is known for featuring TV hits from several big TV networks as well as foreign movies. Having said that, Hulu’s collection of full-length feature films pales in comparison to Netflix. However, if you love to watch TV series more than movies, you’ll really appreciate Hulu’s efforts in bringing the latest stuff to you as early as possible. Furthermore, Hulu is not slacking on the ‘originals’ front either. Hulu’s in-house productions have already been applauded and the company plans to launch more shows this year. The one thing we noticed is that some of the titles don’t have the older seasons available anymore so if you’re planning to binge-watch, you might be a little disappointed.
Interface: When it comes to interface, both the services have their high points and low points. However, we personally think that Netflix stands better when it comes to UX as they’ve tried making the platform uniform across devices. Hulu on the other hand, looks and feels different on different devices. Having said that, in spite of which device you’re using, Hulu’s interface is still quite user-friendly.
Hulu comes with it’s pros and cons. You need to understand what’s most important to you and decide accordingly. For example, if you appreciate the option of subscribing to Live TV and like watching popular TV shows from popular channels, you should definitely sign up for Hulu. If you like to have a good mix of movies, documentaries, and TV shows, then you must look into other services. If you can’t wait for the latest episodes, pick Hulu. If you have family members who might want to stream content at the same time, you might want to check out Netflix as Hulu’s on-demand plans do not offer multiple streams. At the end, it all boils down to your personal preference. We’d totally recommend you to go for the free trial before you take a call.