Digital Trends may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

How does Hulu work? Pricing, plans, channels, and how to get it

Are you considering a Hulu subscription? Hulu is one of the most popular streaming services around, and there are good reasons for that.  

With an extensive library of TV shows, movies, and plenty of original content, there’s no shortage of perks. Navigating the streaming service can be tricky for beginners, however, so if you have questions about pricing, signing up for a subscription, or using the site and app, you’ve come to the right place.

We’ll cover everything for you in this complete guide to Hulu and Hulu + Live TV: Content, features, technical requirements, cost, and more — there’s a lot to go over. Settle in, get acquainted, and grab the Snuggie and popcorn, because you won’t be able to resist a good binge session if you end up subscribing.

Free 30-day trial

hulu plus screenshot

What is Hulu?

Hulu is an on-demand video service that allows users to stream popular TV shows in the U.S. and Japan, with international expansion planned for 2021. The service is co-owned by The Walt Disney Company and Comcast. Hulu focuses primarily on streaming newer TV shows from many popular network broadcasters, original content, blockbuster and independent films, and documentaries.

The platform differs from other well-known streaming sites such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video in that it gives people early access to popular series from multiple traditional networks. You typically only have to wait a week — and in some cases, just a day — to watch episodes of popular broadcast TV series after they’ve aired. Unlike cable, there are no hidden fees, equipment rentals, or installation appointments associated with a Hulu subscription. You can watch Hulu at home or on the go via many of your favorite streaming devices.

In October 2019, Hulu added the ability to watch content offline, something that users of other streaming services have been able to do for years. (Here’s how to download Netflix shows, for example.) Viewers can download up to 25 titles across five different devices and have up to 30 days to watch their downloaded content. The feature is limited to Hulu’s ad-free plans (more on these plans below).

As mentioned, Hulu also has a growing lineup of exclusive original content such as the award-winning drama series The Handmaid’s Tale, hip-hop docuseries Wu-Tang: An American Saga, and more.

Find something to watch

What is Hulu + Live TV?

Hulu’s latest undertaking is Hulu + Live TV. The $55-per-month streaming service — which will jump to $65 next month — allows subscribers to watch live and on-demand TV programming from more than 60 channels, including local news and sports, along with everything you’ll get from Hulu’s on-demand tier mentioned above. Most recent additions include Discovery Channel, TLC, Investigation Discovery, Motor Trend (formerly Velocity), and Animal Planet.

Hulu + Live TV is comparable to other services like Sling TV or YouTube TV that allow access to live programming without a cable or satellite subscription. Like those other services, Hulu + Live TV is not without its kinks. The streaming quality for live programs is often not as good as cable and may suffer with slower internet speeds or during high-traffic periods, though this can be true for plenty of live TV streaming services.

To watch on a computer, head to the Hulu + Live TV website at new.hulu.com. From here, you’ll see your options for on-demand content, as you would with a regular Hulu subscription, but you’ll also see a Live TV button at the top of the screen.

There’s a bit of a schism in the Hulu universe right now as the company migrates from its “classic” experience to its new “full” experience. If you’re only using Hulu on devices where the full experience is supported, you shouldn’t run into problems. If you’re using some devices where only the older Hulu is supported, you might run into trouble: The old-style Watchlist and the new My Stuff don’t integrate very well. As Hulu continues to roll out updates to its full experience, we expect this area to continue to improve.

Those updates happen quite frequently as Hulu tries out changes to its user interface. Recently, the company made its menu options more comfortable to read by eliminating a transparency effect that reduced the text’s legibility. It also added like and dislike buttons, a valuable feedback system for Hulu to help shape your recommendations with more preciseness.

Courtesy of Hulu

Which devices can I use?

As listed on Hulu’s website, Hulu and Hulu + Live TV are available on a wide range of popular streaming devices, including both Android and iOS devices, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Fire tablets, Google’s Chromecast devices, Android TV, Mac, and PC browsers, select LG and Samsung smart TVs, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, and the Nintendo Switch. We can also assume the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 will both be compatible with Hulu at some point in the near future.

Some older platforms and devices, however, like the PlayStation 3, are still missing out on the full-fledged Hulu experience, and that’s unlikely to change as consumers get pressured to upgrade. Others stuck on Hulu’s classic app (which does not allow for individual features, including the live TV option) include select Vizio TVs, Wii U, TiVo, and some Blu-ray players from Sony, Samsung, and LG.

How much does Hulu cost?

Although Hulu used to offer a free (albeit limited) version of its library of content, that is no longer the case. The platform moved to an entirely subscription-based model in 2016, eliminating the free, ad-supported service. And in a recent partnership with Yahoo, Hulu moved some of its free content to Yahoo View. The website will make available the most recent select series episodes, with new episodes added eight days after they air.

The traditional Hulu streaming service provides a subscription, ad-supported tier for $6 per month (following a price drop of $2 per month), and an ad-free version for $12 per month (which we think is well worth the money). Hulu + Live TV is $55 per month through December 18, after which it will be $65 a month. This includes the ad-supported streaming option, 50 hours of cloud DVR, and the ability to watch on two screens concurrently. Add another $6 if you’d prefer to go without continual nagging to buy something.

Hulu is a Disney property, and Disney offers a special deal in which you can bundle all of its streaming services — Hulu, Disney+, and ESPN+ — and pay just $13 per month. That’s $5 less than you would pay if you got them all individually. (More on that below!)

Add-ons

There’s more than enough to get lost with on Hulu, but you can add even more through premium channels available as add-ons. If your motivation for cutting the cord rests in financials, be warned: Things can get pretty pricey going this route. Hulu subscribers have the option of adding monthly subscriptions like HBO ($15), Cinemax ($10), Starz ($9), or Showtime ($11) on top of their existing Hulu subscription.

As for Hulu + Live TV, while the service comes with 50 hours of online cloud storage, users can purchase 200 hours of online DVR storage space for $10 per month. A standard Hulu account comes with a limit of two screens to watch the service simultaneously, but this can be upgraded to unlimited screens at home or three on the go for another $15. Fortunately, if you want both, Hulu takes $10 off the price, letting you bundle both for $15 per month on top of your subscription instead of $25.

For those without cable, any of these subscriptions could be a worthwhile addition. They offer access to countless hours of content, including unique series found nowhere else. While subscriptions can be a bit pricey, putting up with ads and fewer available screens can make both services pretty affordable. But don’t forget to factor in the cost of your internet connection.

What about Disney+?

It’s hard to have missed the news that Disney+ is finally here. As the controlling shareholder in Hulu, we expected Disney to leverage the TV streaming service to promote its new product. We got some intermingling in that regard — you can bundle Disney+ with ESPN+ and Hulu for a $5 discount on the streaming cocktail — but you can’t currently add Disney+ to Hulu as you would HBO or Showtime.

To be clear, a potential marriage between the two isn’t entirely off the table, especially with Hulu’s gradual maturation under Disney stewardship. On the subject, Hulu recently said goodbye to its CEO as Disney looks to tighten its control over the properties. While this doesn’t guarantee anything will happen in that regard, you may want to keep tabs as time progresses.

For now, Disney+ is entirely self-contained within its specific app, and you’ll even have different bills to manage if you’re taking advantage of the Disney bundle as an existing Hulu customer. Disney hasn’t revealed any plans for that to change in the foreseeable future, so for now, you can treat Disney+ as an entirely separate beast.

Are you interested in visiting the digital Magic Kingdom? Here’s how to get Disney+, and don’t forget to check out the Disney bundle if you’re a subscriber to all three.

The need for speed?

Hulu and Hulu + Live TV can stream at various quality levels, adjusted automatically depending on your internet speed. For smooth, interruption-free playback, Hulu recommends a minimum download speed of 6Mbps for Hulu in HD and 8Mbps for Hulu + Live TV. If you are planning on streaming to multiple devices, more bandwidth is necessary for a quality experience. Hulu also added limited 4K content back to its lineup last year, and you’ll need a well-oiled network to handle that.

The internet connection speed requirements for Hulu are as follows:

  • Standard Definition: 1.5Mbps
  • 720p HD: 3Mbps
  • 1080p HD: 6Mbps
  • Hulu + Live TV: 8Mbps
  • Ultra HD 4K: 16Mbps

How do you get it?

Signing up for Hulu is easy, whether you’re on a smartphone or computer. Visit 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. If you’re using a mobile or TV app, Hulu usually has simple sign up and activation methods built-in.

Unlike traditional TV, Hulu does not require any contracts or long-term commitments. You can try the service’s seven-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.

Editors' Recommendations