HuluPlus: An in-depth review
HuluPlus is a subscription based video streaming service that you can use to view all your popular movies and network TV shows. Hulu opened it’s doors in 2008 giving viewers the choice for the first time to watch current and past TV shows aired on popular networks which were mostly only available on cable like NBC, FOX, NBCU networks (such as USA, Bravo, Oxygen, SyFy), ABC, Freeform (previously ABC Family),FX and FXX content, and Comedy Central etc. In addition to prime TV content, Hulu Plus also offers original series, kids programs, full-length movies, film trailers, documentaries and individual clips among others that users can watch on any internet connected device.
The difference between Hulu and HuluPlus
Apart from the fact that Hulu is free and Hulu Plus costs a monthly subscription fee, there many more differences in the two services. In the standard Hulu version, you can only access a few of the recent series aired on TV, acts much like a teaser and promotional tool for up sell to Hulu Plus. On Hulu Plus, you can access the full series seasons, but on Hulu have a very limited shows available and mostly movie trailers. The HuluPlus subscription also allows you to view the episodes of your favorite TV program a day in advance.
You can only access your basic Hulu account online by logging in from your PC. Hulu Plus, on the other hand, is available on hundreds of different devices including Smart TVs, Streaming Media Players, Game Consoles, DVD players, Tablets, Smartphones, Laptops etc.
Hulu Plus SHOWTIME
Hulu Plus gives you access to even more content with SHOWTIME, a Premium Add-On. The add-on lets you access award-winning Showtime original programming such as The Affair, Homeland, Masters of Sex, Episodes and Ray Donovan as well as a great exclusive selection of top Hollywood blockbusters that can be viewed on any device that supports Hulu services including your computer. However, you will part with $8.99 a month on top of the Hulu charges to use this premium add-on. To add SHOWTIME to your subscription, just login to the Hulu website and add SHOWTIME Premium Add-on as an upgrade. Weather you have a Hulu Commercial or No-Commercial plan, the SHOWTIME programming is 100% commercial free.
Accessing Hulu Plus
You need to have the latest Flash enabled computer and reliable internet connection to watch Hulu. Since the service is app-based, you do not need any extra hardware to access the service. You can also watch the videos on any iOS, Android, PS3, Xbox, Roku and Amazon Kindle Fire Device. You can find a complete list of supported devices on Hulu website.
Hulu Plus calls itself an ad-supported subscription service. This means that it airs advertisements during breaks when watching the TV shows and movies. They talk about a modest amount of advertisements but do not give a limit of how many. Hulu Plus clients typically report watching sometimes 2 or 3, 15-second advertisements after a half an hour or so of their favorite TV program. Recently, Hulu unveiled a No-Commercials Plan but at a higher cost as discussed below.
Hulu Subscription Costs
The HuluPlus plan costs $7.99 per month, once you add the SHOWTIME add-on for an additional $8.99 per month, your total Hulu bill will be $16.98 per month. With the HuluPlus No-Commercials plan which costs a bit higher at $11.99 per month, adding SHOWTIME to your current Hulu subscription will result in a total bill of $20.98 per month.
Watching Cable TV Programming from FOX, NBCU & ABC Networks
Participating pay-TV service providers like FOX, NBCU and ABC have decided to enable access to catch-up episodes of current network shows to viewers who have an existing cable service. Subscribers can authenticate their Hulu.com account with any of the pay-TV services and if eligible they will automatically be to watch episodes for several shows online, on PCs, media streaming devices as early as the next day. The Networks’ intent here is to allows user access to catch-up episodes of current shows. It’s important to mentions that this doesn’t always work as some supported cable/satellite TV subscriptions types do not include the “rights to view content” from all authentication-enabled networks. To qualify for next-day viewing for available content from the cable networks of AMC, FOX and NBCU Networks, subscribers must be authenticated from a supported pay-TV provider.
Hulu.com users with an active and supported cable or satellite TV service can authenticate using a simple 3-step online by visiting the http://Hulu.com/authenticate
- Log-in to your Hulu.com account on their PC or laptop
- Use the “Search For Your Provider” section and pick/enter your cable or satellite TV service provider
- Authenticate your account by following the on-screen prompts
Availability of NBC Shows on Hulu
Availability of FOX Shows on Hulu
Unlike NBC, FOX network only allows limited free access to four (4) catch-up episodes of current shows to subscribers of participating Pay-TV plan only. Latest episodes are only available online the very next day for participating Pay-TV customers but they are usually available on Hulu 8 days after their original air day. This 8-day delay applies to most programming but some shows can take up to 30 days to be available on Hulu.
Availability of Bravo, SyFy, USA and Oxygen Shows on Hulu
NBCU, the parent company of Bravo, SyFy, USA and Oxygen has allowed access to five(5) rolling most recent episodes of the current shows. New episodes are available the day after they air and are only accessible after authentication on Hulu.com through a participating pay-TV subscription. One important thing to note is that no current NBCU show seasons are available on your favorite streaming media devices, these shows are only available on the PC through Hulu.com website. A limited selection of past season NBCU network generated content is available on all devices that support the Hulu app like Roku, Amazon FireTV, SmartTV, Xbox, PS3 etc.
Availability of FX and FXX Shows on Hulu
Availability of ABC, Freeform (previously ABC Family), and ABC News Shows on Hulu
Though you may find shows from ABC network on Hulu, you will notice that the availability of some shows are really dependent of the channel. ABC, Freeform, and ABC News all have varying availability on Hulu and here is a snippet of what’s posted on availability on Hulu:
Device Activation on Hulu
In order to activate a supported internet connected device, users need to log in to the Hulu.com account using their email address and password or alternatively use the activation code available on the app main screen. A device activation case is an alphanumeric code and will allow the user to enable the device at Hulu.com/activate. Please note that you don’t need an activation code to activate Apple TV and mobile devices. All you have to do is access the Hulu App and login using your do not have an activation code and start watching.
Hulu User Interface
Hulu Plus user interface is intuitive and very easy to understand and navigate. The landing page has new show slides, a list of recently watched shows along with suggested contents listed per genre. A powerful search is provided to assist users in finding specific content type they are looking for, user can search by title, movie, actor, or a keyword. An advanced video search is also available which allows multiple search criteria to make searching content even better.
Overall, the user interface is easy to use and provide basic/advanced search functions for easy access to available content.
PlayOn TV vs Hulu Plus
PlayOne is a fully featured Streaming DVR application available for your PC or to record in Cloud and watch on any device of your choice. PlayOn portal that allows anyone to aggregate content from 100s of streaming websites and services and puts the content into an easy-to-use streaming video interface. Netflix, Hulu, ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, Amazon, HBO GO and YouTube to name a few. You can record anything that’s available from these websites or apps. Yes, you can even record shows that are exclusively available on Netflix, Amazon, HBO, Hulu etc.
In many ways, PlayOn gives you access to same content as Hulu Plus with the exception of Hulu exclusive content. PlayOn works with both paid Hulu and free Hulu accounts allowing users to view and record content available on Hulu. PlayOn users can record shows and watch them ad-free and if you are not interested in Hulu exclusive content, you can watch majority of Hulu content without paying a paid Hulu subscription fee. Customers who already have Hulu Plus subscription and want to continue it get the added benefit of recording Hulu content locally (Yes, it works like a DVR on your PC) via PlayOn automatically and have it available to watch anytime, anywhere or any device of their choice completely ad-free. PlayOn overall is a very good value at $39.99 one time lifetime license fee and a viable alternative. You can try PlayOn for Free and see if it fits your needs. PlayOn Cloud is the first mobile app that lets you record and download streaming shows and movies to watch offline — anytime, on any device directly from the cloud. No PC required. You can sign up today and get 5 free recordings!