Hulu is a strong option for anyone who wants to legally watch TV online. In fact, I now believe Hulu is a must-have for anyone who wants to get rid of cable TV by cutting the cord, primarily because it offers next-day access to ongoing shows — something you won’t find on Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.
And if you’re thinking of getting Hulu, or if you already have a subscription, there are a number of tips and tricks you’ll want to employ to truly optimize your experience. Here are 11 that you should start using right away.
1. Access Hulu From Outside the U.S.
One of the biggest reasons why people haven’t yet cut the cord is that regional restrictions severely limit content availability in different countries. This means that if you ever leave the U.S., for whatever reason, you’ll no longer be able to watch Hulu.
Fortunately, there are ways to circumvent this.
The oft-recommended method is to use a paid VPN that allows video streaming. My preferred VPN of choice is Private Internet Access because it’s affordable and respectful of your privacy, but there are many others worth using too. Just be sure to first brush up on these common VPN myths and misconceptions before signing up to use one.
Other workarounds include DNS tunneling and unblocking browser extensions. If VPNs aren’t an option for you, try these instead.
2. Defeat Lag Using Router QoS
Unless you live on your own, you’ve probably fought over bandwidth usage before — you want to watch Hulu while your partner, roommate, or sibling wants to play video games, download torrents, or partake in some other bandwidth-heavy activity.
Internet congestion does not make for a pleasant viewing experience, which is why you need to upgrade to a modern wireless router and prioritize your bandwidth using Quality of Service. QoS basically creates “fast lanes” within your network, in this case preventing your Hulu bits from getting “stuck” while your router tries to process all of the other bits passing through.
Seriously, QoS is a must-have router feature for anyone who has to share their internet connection with another person. Do not underestimate how useful it can be.
3. Track New Episodes With Watchlist
One thing I love about Hulu over Netflix or Prime Video is its Watchlist feature, which is the easiest and most convenient to use of them all. Now that Hulu has so many high-quality shows to watch, keeping an organized Watchlist can be difficult.
That’s why it’s nice that Hulu can automatically add new episodes directly to your Watchlist as soon as they’re made available. I’m currently doing this with MasterChef — I log on, see a new episode waiting in my list, and happily play it. No need to check when new episodes are out.
To do this, all you have to do is visit the page for a particular show and click the + watchlist button right next to the rating. When new episodes are available, the show will jump to the front of your Watchlist.
4. Change the Video Quality
It would be nice to watch everything in HD all of the time (or even Ultra HD when it’s available) but that simply isn’t practical or realistic for most of us. Not only are fast internet speeds expensive, at least in most areas of the U.S., but even if you do pay for top-shelf speeds, network quality can dip during peak hours.
So instead of sitting through a constantly-buffering stream, drop the quality down a notch. The picture may not be as crisp, but it won’t be as frustrating to watch either. (In my experience, the “Auto” quality setting isn’t very good, so I’d avoid relying too heavily on it.)
5. Tweak the Appearance of Subtitles
Subtitles aren’t just for foreign films. I find them useful for scenes that involve complex dialog, scenes where the dialog is drowned out by gunshots or explosions, and shows that have a lot of unique proper nouns (mainly in the fantasy and sci-fi genres).
In any case, if, like me, you prefer to keep the subtitles on — properly called “closed captions” on Hulu — then you should also be aware that you can tweak the appearance of the text. Make it as comfortable to read as possible and you’ll be good to go.
6. Watch Hulu on Your TV
Watching Hulu on a TV is incomparable to watching on a desktop, or worse, on a laptop or tablet. (And don’t even think about watching on a smartphone!) Those alternatives will work in a pinch, but the Hulu-on-TV experience is objectively better in nearly every way.
If you have a smart TV, all you have to do is install the Hulu app. Launch it, log into your account, and enjoy. Smart TV interfaces leave much to be desired, but they work well enough.
However, our preferred method is to use a dedicated streaming device — a Roku basically turns any dumb TV into a smart TV while a Chromecast lets you stream video directly from, say, your smartphone to your TV. But between the two, we really like what Roku has to offer.
7. Use Your Smartphone As a Hulu Remote
You may not know this, but you can watch Hulu on your TV while controlling everything else with your smartphone — searching the library, adding new shows and episodes to your Watchlist, tweaking account settings, even switching to another show mid-playback.
All you have to do is install the Hulu app (on Android or on iOS), log into your account on both TV and smartphone, and enable the remote control feature. This functionality even works on smartwatches like the Apple Watch.
Supported devices include:
- Android TV
- Apple TV
- LG TV
- PlayStation 3
- PlayStation 4
- Samsung TV
- Wii U
- Xbox 360
- Xbox One
If you’re watching on a smart TV then you probably already have a physical remote to use, but the app-as-remote alternative is still better because swiping and typing is simply more convenient than the cramped usability of a traditional remote.
8. Set Parental Controls With Hulu Kids Lock
Both the Android and iOS apps for Hulu have a feature called Kids Lock which blocks access to any Hulu content outside of the Kids section, both in terms of browsing content and viewing content. If you’ve wanted to let your kids watch shows but were reluctant for fear of them stumbling onto something they shouldn’t see, this is perfect for you.
Enabling Kids Lock is easy:
- Launch the Hulu mobile app.
- Navigate to the Kids section.
- At the top of the screen, enable Lock for Kids.
It’s honestly that simple. To disable, tap Unlock at the top of the screen and enter your Hulu password when prompted. Unfortunately this feature is not available on other devices and it’s currently unknown whether it will ever be available elsewhere.
9. Use the Advanced Search Options
Searching by titles and keywords is great for quickly hitting the page of a particular show you have in mind, but it’s not so great if you want to find a particular episode of a show or something equally specific and hard-to-search.
That’s where Hulu’s Advanced Video Search comes in, which you can access by searching for anything (it doesn’t matter what) and then clicking the Advanced Video Search link that shows at the top of the search results page.
Or you can use specific modifiers in the actual search query, thus bypassing the need to use the Advanced Video Search page at all:
- Use quotes to search for a phrase. (e.g.
"the one with")
- Use + before a term to require it in every result. (e.g.
- Use – before a term to exclude it in every result. (e.g.
- Use show: to filter by a certain show. (e.g.
- Use season: to filter by a certain season. (e.g.
- Use episode: to filter by episode number. (e.g.
- Use network: to filter by broadcast network. (e.g.
- Other search modifiers can be fount on this help page.
10. Fund Your Subscription With Bing Rewards
Bing Rewards was rebranded as Microsoft Rewards in August 2016, but not much has changed in the transition except for a few superficial updates. The gist is still the same: earn points every time you use Bing and redeem those points for gift cards, subscriptions, sweepstakes entries, etc.
As of this writing, you can earn about 300 points every day and redeem a 1-Month Limited Commercials subscription for 6,800 points, which comes out to around 23 days if you earn all of your daily points (and you can earn even more points if you browse the web using Edge).
Assuming you regularly earn all of your daily points, you can easily fund a Hulu subscription without ever paying a cent. Set Bing as your default search engine and this will require close to zero effort.
11. Don’t Cancel, Put It on Hold
This last tip should sway you if your only concern is that you probably won’t watch Hulu on a month-to-month basis, and you aren’t sure if a continued account will be worth it. Fortunately, Hulu lets you postpone your subscription whenever you want for up to 3 months at a time.
Going away on vacation for a while? Burned through everything you want to watch and nothing else is catching your attention? Having cashflow problems and need a temporary solution? Put your account on hold. It will automatically resume when the hold duration runs out.
What Do You Love About Hulu?
Just because you don’t like Netflix doesn’t mean you should give up on Hulu too. They’re more different than you might realize, and some of these tips and tricks could help to make Hulu the more desirable option for you. If you can afford it though, there’s nothing wrong with having both Netflix and Hulu.
Thanks to the above, I’ve come to appreciate Hulu quite a bit over the past few months — especially when using the No Commercials plan. The ad-free experience is, without question, way, way better.
Are there any other Hulu tips you want to share with your fellow readers? What do you like most about Hulu? What are your favorite shows on Hulu? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments down below!