Hulu, the only online subscription service that delivers streaming video of currently running shows from all of the top television networks, comes in two iterations: Hulu Plus and Hulu.com. Hulu.com is available entirely free of charge. Hulu Plus costs $7.99 per month. So what’s the difference between Hulu Plus and Hulu, and why should anyone consider paying a subscription fee if they can get it for free? Read our Hulu Plus vs. Hulu comparison to find out.
Volume of available content is the primary differentiator between Hulu.com and Hulu Plus. Both platforms offer the same selection of TV show titles from the same number of networks, but only Hulu Plus gives viewers the opportunity to dig deep into the back catalog of their favorite programming. The Hulu.com freebie option contains only the last five episodes of any given show. Hulu Plus gives access to the most recently televised episodes, but also affords subscribers the ability to watch all episodes from every past season. This includes currently broadcasting shows such as The Mindy Project and Modern Family as well as old classics, including The Twilight Zone and The X-Files.
In addition to offering popular favorites from a number of major networks, Hulu Plus has also been making inroads into exclusive, all-original shows such Moone Boy, Deadbeat and Spoilers with Kevin Smith. It also just picked up and saved the Mindy Project from network cancellation. While none of these shows have yet achieved the kind of critical acclaim that original programming offered by competitors Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video have, the network’s commitment to investing in more originals – including more original kid-oriented content – is an encouraging sign.
Although Hulu focuses primarily on TV shows, it also includes a modest library of feature length movies. The difference between Hulu and other services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video is that the selection of movies on Hulu is limited to titles that have been on the home video market for some time. Fans of new releases may find little reason to be excited by this, but discerning viewers of old classics just might.
According to Hulu Plus, it offers the most comprehensive library of Criterion Collection releases available on any streaming service. While some movies can be viewed via Hulu.com for free, the vast majority of the feature-length titles in the library (including the Criterion Collection) are only available to Plus subscribers.
Yet another key difference when evaluating Hulu Plus vs. Hulu Plus is the availability of platforms on which a viewer can tune in. Hulu.com free programming can only be viewed on a computer via web browser. Hulu Plus, on the other hand, can be watched on a wide variety of devices. This includes Android, iOS and Windows 8 mobile devices. There are also apps available for Kindle Fire, Fire phone and Barnes and Noble Nook users to stream content through their devices.
Hulu Plus is also compatible with a variety of smart TVs, Blu-ray players, gaming consoles and streaming media players like Roku, Apple TV and Chromecast. Desktop and laptop computers can also be used to view content on Hulu Plus, which is all broadcast in 720p HD quality. Computer based Hulu.com video is streamed in standard definition.
Ease of Use
The Hulu.com and Hulu Plus viewing platforms are well designed and intuitive to operate. A search field is available to find specific programming by name or by actor. There are also filters that enable a user to seek out entertainment in a variety of genres, divided by TV, movie and kid-oriented offerings. The interface is cleanly laid out and easy to navigate through and in addition to TV and movie listings there are links to trending entertainment stories, popular movie trailers, and short clips designed to offer introductory tidbits to uninitiated viewers.
Typically, it’s normal to expect commercial advertisements with cost-free online streaming. It’s also expected that paying a monthly subscription will buy an ad-free experience. This is not the case with Hulu.com or Hulu Plus, both of which include commercial advertisements for all of their streamed content. According to Hulu, this is done to keep subscription prices low while also compensating their content partners, which are the studios that own the TV shows that are offered. Fans of more entertaining commercial ads may be frustrated to discover that Hulu.com and Hulu Plus often run the same commercials over and over, turning a minor annoyance into something closer to an endurance test.
In either incarnation, Hulu is the ideal online streaming service for television fans who want to keep up with their favorite characters without having to pay the hefty cable fees associated with packaged entertainment. If binge viewing is among one of your favorite pastimes, a $7.99 monthly subscription to Hulu Plus will provide more than enough fodder to keep your busy for days, weeks and even longer. If catching up with recently aired TV episodes is your aim, accessing Hulu.com on a computer browser will keep you up to date for absolutely free.