By Brie Barbee
In the golden age of streamable content – with more options for viewing than ever before – information often gets muddled. What can you actually watch on a streaming site like Hulu? What does it cost? How does Hulu’s new live TV service (or services like it) differ from the standard cable package?
We’ve got you covered. This is your complete guide to Hulu and Hulu with Live TV.
Hulu is an on-demand video service that allows users to stream popular TV shows in the U.S. and Japan (sorry, Europe). It is co-owned by The Walt Disney Company, 21st Century Fox, Comcast, and to a lesser degree, Time Warner. Hulu focuses primarily on streaming newer TV shows and its own original content over movies or documentaries, and offers several paid subscription tiers (more on this later) to customize your viewing experience.
The platform differs from other well-known streaming sites such as Netflix and Amazon Video in that it allows users earlier access to popular series. You typically only have to wait a week – and in some cases, just a day – to watch episodes of popular broadcast TV shows after they air. Unlike cable, there are also no extra fees, equipment rentals, or installation appointments associated with having a Hulu subscription. You can watch Hulu at home or on the go via many of your favorite streaming devices.
As mentioned, Hulu has a growing lineup of original content such as Marvel’s Runaways, the award-winning drama series The Handmaid’s Tale, and I Love You, America with Sarah Silverman, all of which are only available to Hulu subscribers.
Hulu’s latest undertaking is Hulu with Live TV. The streaming service, launched May 3, allows subscribers to watch live and on-demand TV programming from over 50 popular networks, including local news and sports. Hulu with Live TV can be compared to others like Sling TV, DirecTV Now, or Playstation Vue, all of which allow access to live programming without the need for a cable or satellite subscription.
Like those other services, Hulu with Live TV is not without its kinks. The streaming quality for live programs is often not as good as it could be, and suffers pretty badly under slow internet speeds or during high-traffic periods. The user interface is also in serious need of a facelift, and even just accessing the live TV portion of the website can be incredibly frustrating.
While you can go directly to the Hulu with Live TV website at beta.hulu.com, your options from the Hulu homepage are sorely limited. The only way to access live TV from your computer right now is either from a narrow pop-up at the top of the page (that can be closed and won’t reappear unless you reload the page) or from the “Hulu.com Beta Early Access” button on your profile drop-down (but not from your actual profile).
Integration between traditional Hulu on your computer, Hulu with Live TV, and Hulu on mobile or streaming devices is also still lacking. For instance, the shows you save on your computer may not show up on your phone or Xbox after you save them because the “Watchlist” from Hulu and the “My Stuff” section from Hulu with Live TV are not connected. In other words, like all the live streaming TV services we’ve tested, Hulu with Live TV still needs work.
Although Hulu used to offer a free (albeit limited) version of its library of content, that is unfortunately no longer the case. The platform moved to an entirely subscription-based model in 2016, eliminating the ad-supported service. However, in a recent partnership with Yahoo!, Hulu moved its free content to Yahoo! View. The website will make available the five most recent episodes of select series and new episodes will be added eight days after they air.
The traditional Hulu streaming service is now divided into a subscription, ad-supported tier for $8 per month and an ad-free tier for $12 per month (which we think is well worth the money), with a few contractually obligated exceptions like Grey’s Anatomy and Once Upon a Time. Hulu with Live TV is $40 per month for limited ads or $44 per month for ad-free viewing.
Hulu subscribers have the option of adding monthly subscriptions like HBO ($15), Cinemax ($10), or Showtime ($9) 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 $15 per month. The service comes with a limit of two screens that can watch the service at one time, but this can be upgraded to unlimited screens at home or three on the go for another $15.
Depending on what you want from your Hulu experience, your patience for ads, and how many people will be using your account, a regular Hulu subscription could cost $8-$46 (including the additional channels) or $40-$108 for a maxed out Hulu with Live TV account.
For those without cable, any of these subscriptions could be a worthwhile addition. They offer access to countless hours of content, including unique series that can’t be found elsewhere. And while subscriptions can be a bit pricey, putting up with ads and fewer available screens can make both services pretty affordable. That said, you also must remember to factor in the cost of your internet connection.
Hulu and Hulu with Live TV can be streamed at a variety of different qualities, which will adjust automatically depending on your internet speed. For smooth, interruption-free playback, Hulu recommends a minimum download speed of 6 Mbps for Hulu in HD and 8 Mbps for Hulu with Live TV. If you are planning on streaming to multiple devices, more bandwidth will be required for a quality experience.
While the Standard Definition streaming is available on all supported devices, HD or 4K Ultra HD streaming depends on the capabilities of your device. Currently, there are only two devices, the PlayStation 4 Pro and the Xbox One S, that support streaming in 4K Ultra HD. It’s also worth noting that Hulu’s 4K options are limited, even if your device supports it. A full list of 4K Ultra HD shows is available here.
All of the internet connection speed requirements for Hulu are as follows:
Signing up for Hulu is easy — it can be done in just a few minutes from your smartphone or computer. Simply visit https://www.hulu.com/welcome and follow the on-screen instructions. You can also link your Hulu account with your Apple or Android account to make payments simpler. Hulu On-Demand is available on a variety of devices from phones, gaming consoles, Blu-ray players, smart TVs, etc. Hulu with Live TV is a bit more limited, but there are plans to expand the service to more devices soon and fix some of its current bugs.
Unlike traditional TV, Hulu does not require any contracts or long-term commitments. You can try the service for their standard 7-day free trial and cancel afterward with no fees (although you do have to put in your credit card information when you sign up). If you decide to cancel your subscription, you can do so easily online or via customer service. If you ever decide to pick it back up again, your account information will still be accessible. Hulu is a great way to stay caught up on your favorite TV shows even if you don’t have cable.
This article was originally posted on Digital Trends
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