Hulu—owned by the Walt Disney Co. and Comast—is one of many online subscription video streaming services currently available. Hulu currently has over 20 million members and It contains a large library of TV-Shows as well as a handful of Documentaries and lesser known Movies. There is also the option of Hulu + Live TV—their over-the-top(OTO) IPTV service—which allows you to watch most major television networks as they play live. Hulu streaming contains shows from network partners such as: NBC, ABC, Fox, A&E, FX, Oxygen, Syfy, USA Network and E! among many others. Hulu also produces its own exclusive shows and movies. While the current quality of Hulu's original content can leave much to be desired, it does have a fair number of successful titles. And just as Netflix has learned how to improve original content over the years, I'm hopeful Hulu will as well.
We're using a 100/100 Mbps internet connection from Verizon FIOS for reference during our review.
PC version above. Console version below.
When you first sign-up for Hulu, the process is straightforward. Choose either the Hulu Streaming($5.99mo first month free) or Hulu + Live TV($44.99mo first seven days free)service. Fill in the information required(name, e-mail password, ect.) Then Hulu then asks you to choose five or more interests for better recommendations. So you can select individual shows/movies/documentaries or complete categories such as Sci-Fi, Dramas or Anime. From my experience, the proposed curation doesn't exactly seem to change all that much from based on what you select(making it somewhat pointless). I would just plan on browsing the various genres and adding the programs you wish to watch later to your "My Stuff" tab(more on that later) and go from there. Up to six family members can have their own User Name on one account, which should suite most.
Listed below are the available devices that support Hulu Services
Mac & PC, Apple iPhone & iPad, Andriod Phones & Tablets, Roku Devices, Amazon Fire TV & Stick, Apple TV, Chromecast, Xbox One & Xbox 360, SAMSUNG TV, LG TV and lastly the Nintendo Switch Console.
Worth mentioning is that while the video streaming app does work on both the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4, the Hulu Live TV option does NOT currently work on these consoles. Older SAMSUNG and LG TV's(-2015 models) we've tested do not support the Hulu with Live TV option either. So, just make sure that you own a supported device listed on the Hulu website if you plan on using Hulu to cut-the-cord and switch to their OTO service.
Quality on a PC, Console or Streaming Device
From my experience, Hulu on a PC is the most streamlined and reliable(see the comparison photo up top). The TV Shows, Movies and News are lined up in a grid pattern. The show thumbnails are large, making them easy to read and click on. If you continue to scroll downward on the main page, you'll find a plethora of categories: Funny Movies, Kid Shows, Adult Animation, Food Shows, Gritty Dramas, '90s Nostalgia and True Crime just to name a few. There's a windowed picture-in-picture that appears on the bottom right of the screen allowing you to continue watching your program while you browse additional Hulu content so you don't miss what you're watching. As mention before, Hulu does offer a handle of movies but the television shows are where Hulu truly shines.
Arguably the best feature from Hulu is that you can watch new episodes of TV shows the day after they air on cable or satellite. Unlike other streaming networks, there are a lot of mainstream sitcoms, comedies and older cartoons—Rugrats, Animaniacs, Doug, Hey Arnold, ect. Hulu also has a decent selection of movies but most of them are older, indie and lesser known compared Netflix or Amazon Video Prime. Whether I was watching on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, fireTV, Nintendo Switch or SAMSUNG TV's, the streams never gave me an issue. As for quality, not every single show is available in HD but I would say most are. If it's an older program, it all depends on if the network ever released a HD version of it, because Hulu simply replays exactly how the show was originally captured. I think anybody would rather have a show they were searching for in SD than not at all, which is one of the great things about Hulu's streaming service. One device where I have found some problems during testing is with the Roku Ultra. Primarily with the Hulu + Live TV; not so much with the basic streaming app service but still some on occasion. What would happen is the sound will either suddenly cut-out or the lip syncing would eventually become far-off, both requiring the Roku Ultra to be rebooted unfortunately. From researching online and sifting through help forums, the issue seems to lay with Roku. It still hasn't been resolved as of yet but I believe an update patch is being worked on. It's not all negative if you own a Roku Ultra. The Hulu selection process—scrolling through options, searching, rewinding or fast-forwarding—on Roku Ultra is very snappy and quick but keep in mind, if you plan on using the Hulu + Live TV service with the Roku Ultra.. you will more than likely encounter the issues we mentioned. We would also encounter a frame-rate issue with live sports on Amazon Fire and Roku, where there was a noticeable stutter but channeling and re-selecting the program fixed this issue. On how often we would experience this, I would say probably one out of every four football games we'd watch. Once the sporting event is re-selected, it did not happen again for the duration of that broadcast.
I wanted to mention the Close-Captioning. I tend to use subtitles/closed-captioning while I'm jogging on the treadmill since it can sometimes be a little hard to hear the sound from across my room(TV's on the other side) and the standard CC offered in Hulu is average, it does the job. I say it like that because It doesn't quite have the same attention to detail as other streaming services I've used before. Such as background noises, event happening off in the distance or language details such as expressions especially in another language being translated for example. Like I said, it works but not as well as others.
Hulu + Live TV
For the most part, I really enjoyed my time with the Hulu + Live TV plan. Being able to login to your account from TVs or Devices away from home and instantly accessing 60+ live channels as well as all of your DVR and pinned programs available was as easy as can be. Watching Live TV on console or streaming device can be a bit cumbersome, the same layout is used but an extra Live tab is added to the top of the screen. After loading Hulu, you have to select up, then right and down to begin searching through networks. They're listed in a top-down pattern and after a network is selected, if you press right, you can see which show is upcoming. Downside is that you can only see which program is coming on next and any programs playing later that day. Another feature that needs to be added--and I've seen a lot of requests for this--is a previous channel button. If you plan on watching live TV on a web browser, clicking the Live TV button on the top menu brings you to a different page from the general streaming service where you can select which programs to watch or add to your My Stuff tab. I also like how you can add your favorite sports team(Eagles/Cowboys) to your My Stuff and the cloud DVR will record each game or feature about the team until storage runs out so you can catch the previous event if you forgot about it. I noticed that if you have the Hulu + Live TV package, it seems to record or store certain movies from TV Channels such as FXM and offer them as a stream commercial free, basically streaming them like a Netflix movie. It's an interesting feature. Where the TV commercial would usually play in-between breaks, there is a short black screen and then the movie just continues on— you're able to rewind and fast-forward these movies as well. Unfortunately, if you are streaming Hulu on a device that doesn't support Hulu + Live TV, you will not be able to find these movies in browse or by searching. The quality of the on-air programs is quite good. Most programs play at 720P but it does support 1080P and 4k viewing if your streaming device is able to display that resolution.
To be able to quickly find a show or movie you wish to return to at a later time, Hulu Streaming allows you to store programs you wish to keep track of or watch later under the "My Stuff" tab. Hulu separates them under TV Shows, Movies, Teams(Sports) and Networks. If you have the Hulu Live TV Service + DVR Service, the programs you record will also show up under this tab. Playing back recordings works smoothly.. For the most part. A problem I found is that if the initial recording is interrupted due to a drop in bandwidth for example, the recording too will have that fault. Another issue I had with the DVR is that, even if you pay for the "ad-free package" the footnote states that you will "at times" still see ads. I feel like this was true for about 75% of my recordings. To make it worse, sometimes you cannot rewind or fast-forward while the ad is currently playing. The ads weren't unbearably long but it's still a nuisance because when you're paying for "ad free" television, you expect it to be.. Well, Ad free. Hulu also does not currently offer "Offline Viewing" for downloading shows either. Which means you will also need to be connected to a Wi-Fi network in order to watch anything you've saved to My Stuff.
The initial price for Hulu streaming is $5.99mo but if you want to watch your programs without ads-breaks, that'll increase the price to $11.99mo. You're most likely going to want to do this, the advertisements can be quite unbearable and drove me to the point of upgrading my plan almost instantly after signing-up. The ads feel like they play too often and for too long. The Hulu + Live TV plan begins at $44.99mo but once again, you will most likely upgrade to the Hulu(No Ads) + Live TV plan for $50.99mo.
This plan includes: watching Hulu streaming add-free, over 60 live and on-demand channels(check your location for exact listings), watch on two screens at one time and record Live TV with 50 hours of Cloud DVR Storage. While I didn't necessarily have an issue with being limited to only two screens, I did with the DVR storage. Which meant I had to upgrade to the "Enhanced Cloud DVR + Unlimited Screens Bundle" that added $14.98mo onto the $50.99 I was paying for the Hulu + Live TV plan. This addition allowed me up to five screens at once, increased my Cloud DVR storage to 200 hours(which was closer to my Verizon plan), allowed me to perform simultaneous recordings(only possibly with upgrade) and fast-forward through ads(with some exceptions).
Like any streaming service, the cost increases quickly once you start stacking multiple add-on services. The available add-on channels are: HBO($14.99mo), Showtime($10.00mo), Cinemax($9.99mo) and Starz($8.99mo).
If you also plan on using the Hulu + Live TV service, the extra add-ons offered are: Enhanced Cloud DVR($9.99), Unlimited Screens($9.99), Entertainment Add-On: AHC, CNBC World, Cooking, Descovery Life, diy, fyi, Lifetime Movies, SCI($7.99) and lastly Español Add-On: CNN, Discovery, familia Discovery, ESPN Deportes, Universo, History en Espanol($4.99). As you can see, price can add up quickly if you plan on selecting multiple services but at least with Hulu you're given the option of adding these channels rather than them being unavailable at all. Which is one of the issues with most over-the-top live TV services is virtually every one offers networks that the other does not. It comes down to which service contains most of the channels that you want.
Hulu Streaming Service offers a reliable, high quality, easy to use—albeit sometimes clunky on consoles—interface. It has a large selection of shows that are hard, if not impossible to find elsewhere, along with a few older movies and documentaries. I've been using it for about two years now and I'm satisfied with what the service has been able to offer for the ad-free price of $12mo.
As for Hulu + Live TV. Should you cancel your cable provider and switch to something like Hulu + Live TV? I'm not quite sure I'd advise that. First off, you will need to retain your internet service which ballparks between $60-80(not to mention notorious service fees, taxes, ect.) Then adding the cost of Hulu +Live TV without ads $50+(my bill was $62mo) and any add-ons can easily bring you to $130mo or more. If you can get away without adding any extras, it's possibly you could save a few dollars by switching but until there's more of a significant price difference.. It's hard to justify switching in my personal opinion. Perhaps that'll change down the road a bit. If you still want to make the switch, I think it's a solid option with only a few flaws that keep it from being perfect.