Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
Television is finally growing up. For most of us, that’s a great thing — it means fewer commercials and increasing access to on-demand titles we might not have had the means to watch otherwise.
It also means we’re about to see several giant companies climb to the top of what promises to be a big pile of streaming television services. Hulu is, of course, already a household name in this industry. But how does its premium service stack up against the competition these days?
We’re here to help you decide whether a Hulu Basic account is worth the asking price, so you should consider the following points before making your decision.
Note: In addition, you also have the option of a Hulu Live subscription for streaming over 50 different channels in real-time as they air—but that’s beyond the scope of this article, which only focuses on Hulu Basic.
Hulu Has Great Content Partnerships
Let’s address the rumors: yes, it appears that everybody from Apple to Verizon wants to be your one-stop television shop. But right now, nobody really beats Hulu for up-to-date television episodes.
A Hulu Plus subscription gets you direct access to content from ABC, NBC, A&E, Comedy Central, FOX, The History Channel, and several others — and in many cases, you can watch current episodes the day after they air.
Apple also wants to build partnerships like these, but rumors indicate lots of false starts at the negotiating table. If you’re not in a particular hurry right now and would like to see how things look after the dust settles, see what Apple pulls out of their magic hat six months down the road.
And consider this: Netflix costs $10 per month but usually only has past seasons of non-Netflix Original shows. For $7.99 per month, Hulu Plus is a no-brainer for anyone who wants to stay up to date on current shows.
Hulu Fixes the Worst Mistakes of Cable
If you’re even remotely interested in subscribing to Hulu Plus, it means you’re probably sick of cable TV for one reason or another. You’re not alone: more people than ever before are cutting the cord.
Hulu Plus mostly does away with big cable’s worst mistakes. The $7.99-per-month tier still has limited advertisements, but the $11.99-per-month tier does not. Netflix, of course, doesn’t have commercials of any description. Buying individual episodes outright from the Google Play or iTunes stores also does not come with the burden of ads — and as long as you’re a member of those ecosystems you retain ownership of the content you purchase.
Right now, Hulu Plus is the most like traditional cable, just without the disdain most cable companies have for their customers.
Hulu’s new $39.99-per-month Live TV service brings it even closer by offering live streaming television on most set-top boxes like Chromecast, Roku, and Apple TV, plus mobile OSes like iOS and Android. You also get access to Hulu’s back catalog and new episodes with limited commercial interruption.
If you’re the sort of person who likes to wait until a whole season is available on Netflix to stream at your leisure, any of Hulu’s three service plans is going to seem like overkill — or even an extravagance if your entertainment budget is limited, which perhaps it ought to be.
But for real television enthusiasts who keep up with multiple shows and want to talk about the latest plot developments, you can’t really do better than Hulu right now.
Know the Exceptions Before You Commit
Hulu used to be one of a very few names operating in the streaming television space. As a result, it enjoyed very little competition.
Now, quite a few of the so-called prestige and niche networks (like AMC and Syfy) are striking out on their own and either relying on digital sales through iTunes and Google Play or setting up their own streaming services with their own subscription plans.
Yes, AMC is currently a holdout from participating in Hulu’s content aggregation. Discovery and Viacom also do not wish to take part at this time.
Hulu is not going to provide access to everything you want to watch. Neither Hulu nor any of the other streaming services currently offers King of the Hill to watch on demand, for example, which is a tragedy. So if there’s a particular show or even a whole genre you’re seriously committed to, my advice for Hulu Plus is the same as my advice for any of the other services out there… do your homework.
As the market grows more segmented and capitalism works its competitive magic, we’re seeing more and more major content partnerships ending, with Disney and Netflix going their seperate ways, for example. Everybody’s making original shows, too. The point is that no single streaming service is going to offer everything you want all the time.
Counterpoint: Buying Content Outright
You’re on a budget. We all are. Unless you’re swimming in cash, you don’t just want to cut the cord with the cable company — you want to be selective and frugal about the entertainment you consume.
We’ll render final judgment on Hulu Plus in a moment, but consider this final counterpoint and maybe an attractive compromise: buy your TV episodes outright.
Some of the same restrictions apply here as above: Not everything will be available within your ecosystem of choice. Nevertheless, there’s a good chance you’re loyal to devices made by a particular technology company, be it Google, Apple, or whoever. And since these companies also sell TV episodes and movies, buying them a la carte kind of makes sense if you like the content enough to want to retain access to it.
It also gives you the benefit of always being able to re-download your past purchases, including entire movies and individual episodes. Netflix does offer downloads, but only on a limited basis, but, again, its catalog is always changing. We’re talking about building a personal media library that will always be with you.
It’s worth a look. If you’re trying to watch less TV (and support the shows you do like in a more direct way), buying the episodes outright is a solid option that’s worth a look if your favorite shows aren’t conveniently available another way.
Is Hulu Plus Worth the Asking Price?
Hulu has come a long way. Because it remains committed to adding new features on a regular basis and offering a more cable-like experience without the cable-like missteps, it’s a very attractive option.
All in all, I’d say Yes. Hulu Plus is worth your money, at least for the time being. That’s not to say that other services won’t offer new and improved features that could outdo it in the future but, for now, Hulu Plus is a good buy.
The service is ideal for anybody who wants to stay up-to-date on their favorite shows so they can talk about them with friends at work or school. Even the most expensive tier, at $40 per month, feels like a good buy when you consider what cable service used to cost the average household.
If you have any of the currently available set-top boxes (like Google Chrome, Roku, or Apple TV), you can access the full functionality of any of Hulu’s service tiers.
The way I see it, Hulu Plus is the best solution out there right now for streaming television. It really hits at Netflix’s most critical vulnerable spot, which is a lack of current episodes. Hulu offers recent episodes as well as previous seasons for those weekends spent playing catch-up on the couch.
At the very least, it’s worth taking a free trial run for a spin. You probably already own at least one device that’s compatible with Hulu’s services, so why not see if it’s for you.
If you’ve already paid for Hulu Plus, what do you think of it? Is it worth the money? What do you like about it? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Image Credit: vectorfusionart/Depositphotos