If you're a cord cutter or want to be, but can't abandon network TV, you need Hulu. The service is best known for streaming shows the day after they air, specifically shows from a few of the five major networks—ABC, NBC, and Fox. (CBS has its own streaming service and Hulu's next-day CW shows deal evaporated in 2016.) It's also got lots of content from other cable outlets and many movies—Hulu has almost as many "certified fresh" films on the Rotten Tomatoes list as Amazon Prime. When it first emerged, we dinged Hulu for a lack of news, sports, and original programming, as well as ads that interrupted the paid version, all points that were probably big factors in Hulu's relatively slow growth. Those fortunes have changed. It got its first Emmy nod in 2017 for the excellent show Casual, and then became a major player with the multiple wins for the dystopian thriller The Handmaid's Tale. That show was probably the biggest factor in how Hulu doubled its subsc..
If you're a cord cutter or want to be, but can't abandon network TV, you need Hulu. The service is best known for streaming shows the day after they air, specifically shows from a few of the five major networks—ABC, NBC, and Fox. (CBS has its own streaming service and Hulu's next-day CW shows deal evaporated in 2016.) It's also got lots of content from other cable outlets and many movies—Hulu has almost as many "certified fresh" films on the Rotten Tomatoes list as Amazon Prime.
When it first emerged, we dinged Hulu for a lack of news, sports, and original programming, as well as ads that interrupted the paid version, all points that were probably big factors in Hulu's relatively slow growth. Those fortunes have changed. It got its first Emmy nod in 2017 for the excellent show Casual, and then became a major player with the multiple wins for the dystopian thriller The Handmaid's Tale. That show was probably the biggest factor in how Hulu doubled its subscriber based in the last year to 25 million.
The basic subscription is now only $5.99 after a recent price drop (and you don't see many of those in streaming land). For an extra $6 subscribers get zero commercials, albeit with specific exceptions on certain popular shows that get an ad at the beginning and end of each streamed episode.
Unlike Netflix and others, Hulu is only available in two countries: the United States and Japan, where it's operated by a third party. Netflix, by comparison, has subscribers worldwide. And because it's limited, you can't legally access Hulu when you're out of the country. But there are ways around that (as you'll see below).
Change is a constant at Hulu. Time Warner, which is now owned by AT&T, bought a 10 percent stake not long ago. With that came access to shows from its vaults at CNN, TBS, Cartoon Network, TNT, and more. But Hulu's biggest change was the transformation to offering a Live TV service, taking on Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, and DirecTV Now.
Coming soon, Disney will have a majority stake in the ownership when it buys Fox; there are rumors that the other owners of Hulu, like Comcast, may sell it all to Disney. Despite that, Disney is launching its own streaming service, Disney+, sometime in 2019—so it may own two streaming services by the end of the year.
Hulu really is well worth having if you're a serious cord cutter. This guide covers the basic service, not the live TV option. The interface has changed a lot in the last year so read through to master Hulu. You'll be glad you did.
1. A Good Looking Profile
Hulu lets you create a profile for each member of the household (or someone outside your household). Click the top-right drop-down menu on Hulu.com or a TV interface like Xbox One or Roku and select Manage Profiles. Set up a profile for up to six people, and they can then create their own My Stuff list, so your profile isn't gummed up with shows and movies you don't like. The downside: Hulu only allows one concurrent stream.
2. Restrict the Kiddies
You can't make an existing profile kid-friendly, so if you've already got six profiles, delete one to re-create it with parental controls in place. When you create it, set it to Kids Mode: On. That restricts that user to Hulu Kids Hubcontent. Set an age on the profile and Hulu will also restrict the user from R-rated movies and TV-MA shows if they're 17 or under.
3. Add Favorites to 'My Stuff'
Want to stay up to date with a favorite show? Save something for later? Add it to "My Stuff." Just navigate to a show's profile or hover over it in a carousel on Hulu.com and tap the plus (+) button to add it to your list. Everything will be saved in "My Stuff," which is accessible via the menu on the bottom of the app and atop the page on Hulu.com.
4. Hulu App as Remote
A pretty standard thing these days is using the mobile app for a video streaming service as a remote control while you watch on the big screen. Hulu has limited the ability to devices that support AirPlay (so using iOS to control Hulu on Apple TV) and the Google Chromecast, which you can control from iOS and Android devices.
For AirPlay, connect your device to the same Wi-Fi network as your Apple TV. Find the show you want to watch on the Hulu app, tap the AirPlay icon at the top of the player window, and choose your Apple TV from the list.
For Chromecast, look for the cast icon in the upper-right of the Hulu mobile app—it looks like a TV screen with radio waves bouncing off. Tap it, and pick the device you want to control. The mobile device now lets you pause or play, skip back 10 seconds, turn captions on or off, and all around control the big screen.
This also works if you connect your iPhone or iPad to a TV using a Lightning port to HDMI adapter.
5. Boost or Reduce Your Video Quality
Want to boost your video quality or save data by taking it down a notch? On desktop, while a video is playing, click the gear icon () on the lower-left. A Quality setting lets you select between Best Available and Data Saver. Obviously, the former will get you the best video quality, if you have the bandwidth. On mobile, tap the gear icon to choose between Auto, Low, Medium, or High. On a box like the Xbox One, you take what you get.
The most you'll get on any Hulu show is 1080p HD if you've got a 6Mbps connection. Hulu did give 4K support a try for a while on its original shows for select devices like the Xbox One S, but it quietly killed the feature in June 2018.
6. Adjust Subtitles for Readability
On Hulu.com, you can turn on and customize Closed Captions. Click the gear icon on the bottom left and select Subtitles > Settings. A pop-up menu appears, where you can change the look of the captions in radical ways: color, font, size, opacity, drop shadows, transparency, you name it. On mobile, you can only turn captions on or off, and your desktop settings do not translate to mobile or smart TVs.
7. Protect Your Account
Did you log in to your Hulu account on a friend's computer, a public device, or another gadget to which you no longer have access? You can revoke that device's access to your account with a few clicks. On the desktop, click your name on the top-right and select Account. Under Privacy and Settings, click Protect Your Account and Hulu will offer to log out of every single Hulu session ever set up with your account. That includes any friends and family using the account, even those with other profiles. You or your profile buddies will need your password to log back in, naturally.
8. Use 3D Touch Access
Got a newer iPhone with the full 3D Touch option? That's where you press down hard on an icon for an app and a Quick Actions menu of possibilities pops up. Hulu's app for iOS has that, with fast access to the My Stuff list, search, or the last thing you were watching. There's also a Hulu widget you can add for easy access from the iPhone or iPad lock screen.
9. Use iPhone EarPods as a Remote
You've probably used the microphone controls on your iPhone's included EarPods to control your phone calls and even music playback. They also will work for Hulu: Single tap the central section of the mic controls to pause, double tap to jump forward, and triple tap to go back. The volume up and down at top and bottom work as you'd expect.
10. Add On a Premium Subscription
Hulu "pioneered" the add-on option in 2015 by offering a discount on Showtime if you bundled it with your Hulu account. You no longer get a discount on Showtime (or HBO, Cinemax, and Starz), but you can add those channels to your Hulu account for easy access and just one monthly bill.
To add a premium channel to your Hulu account, log in on the desktop and select your name > Account on the top right. Under Your Subscription, click Manage and scroll down to the Premium Add-Ons section. There, you can add Showtime ($10.99 per month), HBO ($14.99), Cinemax ($9.99), and Starz ($8.99).
11. Watch Via Picture-in-Picture
There's a picture-in-a-picture option on the Hulu web interface. Click the minimize icon at the bottom of the screen (it'll even activate the first time you try to hit the X to close the show or movie) and the video will reduce to the corner so you can continue to surf around in Hulu as it plays while you locate other shows to add to My Stuff. It’s the perfect way to not pay attention to what you're watching, while finding more stuff to store and never watch in the future!
12. Access Outside the USA
Hulu is US-based (the Japanese version, operated by Nippon TV, is entirely separate). When you travel outside the country and want to access Hulu, you're generally out of luck. The only solution: use a virtual private network (VPN) service that makes it look like you're still state-side. Your best bet is a paid VPN service. You can find a good pick among The Best VPNs for Netflix—what works for one streamer works for another.
13. Prepare for Pause Ads
This one isn't a tip so much as a warning. Hulu is rolling out something called Pause Ads, which will pop up on your screen whenever you pause a Hulu show. On the upside, they won't be video—the initial rollout will feature still commercials for Coke and Charmin, and they'll be "subtle and non-intrusive," according to Hulu. Prepare yourself.
14. Put Hulu on Hold
Going on vacation or sabbatical? Pick a 1- to 12-week period to place a Hulu subscription on pause. That means you won't be able to watch any Hulu content—nor will anyone else with a profile on your account. But you also won't be billed during that time. If you don't cancel during the pause period, the subscription and billing starts again at the end of the hold session. You access this at secure.hulu.com/account/pause; you'll have to enter your password again to get there.
15. Cancel Your Hulu
Sick of Hulu's programming? It's possible to leave the service altogether if you like. On the Account page, there's a big ol' Cancel Your Subscription box. Click the Cancel link to pull the trigger. First it'll try to get you to just pause, but you can go through with it by clicking the second trigger that says "Continue to Cancel." For more, read How to Revise or Cancel Your Hulu Subscription.
This article originally published at PCMag