What Is Hulu & How Does It Work?

All you want to know about this popular TV and movie streaming service

Hulu is a streaming content service based out of the US. It started in 2010, initially as a way to watch recently-aired TV shows, but has since grown into a massive service with full movies, original programming, and live TV options.

There are thousands of movies and TV shows available through Hulu, plus it works on a number of devices so you can stream videos wherever you go. Several paid plans are available depending on your tolerance for advertising and what you want to stream.

Hulu home page

Hulu no longer offers free content unless you’re taking part in a trial plan. If you're looking for truly free movies and shows, please know that there are still free movie sites and websites with free TV shows.

How Does Hulu Work?

As you'll see below, you can use Hulu from a variety of screens, and five other people can access your account with their own profile. Each profile is separate from the others but they don't cost any extra; all viewing history and recommendations are unique to each profile. Even kids can have their own Hulu profile to restrict their usage to kid-friendly content.

All of Hulu’s content is 100 percent free and legal to stream. This is because it has genuine deals with content providers, which gives Hulu permission to publish content from their networks.

Hulu includes original programming as well as content from Disney, Fox, BBC America, Showtime, TLC, CBS, ABC News, Animal Planet, Complex, Freeform, FX, and others.

Streaming from Hulu isn't free, so you must first purchase a plan. Some of the content isn’t included in the plan by default but can be added, which comes at an additional cost. If you want to remove ads on Hulu, that’s an additional fee as well.

Hulu Plans

There are four base plans you can buy, all of which include access to Hulu’s full library of movies and shows.

A standard Hulu plan can be purchased with or without ads.

  • Hulu: $5.99 /month; includes ads
  • Hulu (No Ads): $11.99 /month; removes ads

The Hulu Live TV plan includes more content since it resembles a traditional cable subscription. There are live and on-demand channels covering news, sports, lifestyle, movies, kid-friendly content, and entertainment, depending on your location (check yours here). It’s also available ad-free.

  • Hulu + Live TV: $54.99 /month; includes ads
  • Hulu (No Ads) + Live TV: $60.99 /month; removes ads

If you subscribe to a Hulu Live TV plan, add-ons are available for an additional monthly fee. The extra networks and features you can choose from include HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, STARZ, Spanish live streams, enhanced cloud DVR (store more hours of video), and unlimited screens (stream from more devices at home).

You can also bundle your Hulu subscription with other services. If you sign up for the Disney+ bundle, you’ll get access to Disney+ as well as ESPN+ and Hulu. Spotify Premium Student includes not only Spotify Premium but also Hulu (the ad-supported plan) and Showtime. A Sprint and Hulu combo is available for some Sprint plans.

What's Available on Hulu?

Hulu has lots of genres to help you find specific movies and shows, such as Action, Crime, Late Night, Latino, Horror, Comedy, News, Classics, Sports, Cooking & Food, Thriller, Teen, LGBTQ+, Science & Technology, Adult Animation, Sitcom, Romance, and Reality.

Hulu genres

If you don't want to spend time browsing through a genre at Hulu, you can view available movies and shows by what's most popular, the newly added titles, Hulu originals, and other fun categories.

Hulu movies

Hulu also has some collections available like Quick Bites, Binge-Worthy TV, For The Family, '80s Binge, Indies, Terrifying TV, Cult, and Staff Picks. This is a really fun way to get to know content that you may have normally passed up.

Hulu home reno and reality page

Yet another method for finding what to watch on Hulu is through the Networks page. It's there that you can browse by the channels you're subscribing to, such as any premium add-ons and categories for kids, news, and channels like Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, A&E, Discovery, Bravo, Disney Channel, CMT, HGTV, Lifetime, History, and many others.

You don't need to pay for Hulu to see what you can watch; open the Hulu content page to sift through the library. However, to actually stream something, you'll need a Hulu account. It's free for a little while so that you can get a feel for what you'll get out of it.

How to Create a Hulu Account

All new users can get a free trial of Hulu before committing to a monthly plan. Depending on the plan you chose, you can get up to one month free at no cost. If you don’t cancel your Hulu subscription by the end of the trial, you’ll be charged for the next month/week.

Here’s how to get started:

  1. Visit Hulu’s Choose Your Plan page.

  2. Choose the SELECT button under the plan you want.

    Hulu Choose Your Plan page

    Be sure to double-check the length of the trial for the plan you’re choosing. The Live TV option is free only for the first week while the other two are free for a whole month.

  3. Create your Hulu account by filling out the form and selecting Continue.

  4. Enter your payment details and then press SUBMIT. Or, use the EXPRESS OPTIONS tab to pay with PayPal.

    Hulu billing page during signup
  5. Select a premium add-on if you want it included in your trial, and then press REVIEW CHANGES. Otherwise, select SKIP.

    Hulu addon options during initial setup

    Again, be sure to check the free trial length; they might only last a week while your Hulu trial is for a month.

  6. Press NEXT to personalize your profile and begin using Hulu.

    Now that you have an account can start watching the best shows on Hulu.

Where You Can Watch Hulu

Hulu is available from Hulu.com and on a wide variety of devices, from smart TVs and gaming consoles to phones, tablets, streaming devices, and computers.

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How to Download Movies and Shows From Hulu

The option to download select movies and shows from Hulu is available on either of the ad-free plans. Saving a video to your device lets you watch it without a data connection, and it doesn't count against your screen limit.

Downloading Hulu movies and TV shows is available only for Android, iOS, and Amazon Fire devices. Just press the download button next to the video to save it. Anything you download from Hulu is accessible through the DOWNLOADS tab in the app.

Hulu app downloading a movie on Android

There are several limitations to be aware of when it comes to downloading movies and shows from Hulu:

  • You can have up to 25 movies and episodes saved at any given time, per account.
  • Not all videos are downloadable. Any content from a premium add-on service can't be saved for offline viewing, nor can you download any ad-supported content from a network.
  • Downloads aren't permanent. They'll be removed if any of these conditions are met: it's been 30 days since it was saved, it's been 48 hours since you started watching it, the content has been removed from Hulu's library, you cancel your plan, or you switch to a plan that doesn't support offline viewing.
  • Only five devices using your account can simultaneously store movies and shows offline.

How Is Hulu Different From Other Services?

With so many premium video streaming services available today, it can be difficult to decide which one(s) are best for you. If they all stream movies and shows, how are they really that different? Don't they include the same videos?

The major differences between Hulu and Netflix, and other services like Sling TV, are their content selection, the cost for streaming, features, and the devices and locations you can stream from.

To get started in your quest to pick the best video streaming service for you, whether that be Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, etc., see these helpful comparison articles: