Hulu: A Top Streaming Choice
PC Magazine|September 2021
As the competition between video-streaming services intensifies, differentiation is ever-important. Hulu continues to offer both a strong on-demand streaming library and a robust live TV option. The service is an excellent option for watching popular TV shows, and we like its broad platform support, even if Hulu’s original series are hit-or-miss. On the live TV front, Hulu’s channel coverage is top-notch, and its DVR features compare well to the competition’s. Despite a few missteps, Hulu keeps its Editors’ Choice award, because no other service can quite match its combination of streaming content.
BEN MOORE & KIM KEY

WHAT CAN YOU WATCH ON HULU?

Hulu’s on-demand library has always been about TV shows, and that emphasis remains. The service offers hundreds of seasons and thousands of episodes from major networks. The rise of network-specific streaming services, such as Paramount+ and NBC’s Peacock, has cut into this content library. But Disney’s role in Hulu and its vast library of former 21st Century Fox content that doesn’t fit Disney+’s family-friendly profile will likely keep Hulu afloat.

Hulu offers many cable TV shows. For fans of animation, there’s Archer, Adventure Time, Bob’s Burgers, and Futurama. Drama shows include Bones, Killing Eve, The Orville, and The X-Files. Comedy fans can watch 30 Rock, Broad City, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Letterkenny, Malcolm in the Middle, Scrubs, and Seinfeld. Note that Parks and Recreation has left for NBC’s Peacock, and Seinfeld is going to Netflix in 2021. The good news is that Hulu’s FX hub is live. FX shows such as A Teacher, Devs, and Mrs. America stream exclusively on Hulu. Full seasons of past FX shows, including Archer, Atlanta, Better Things, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Justified, and Snowfall live there, too.

Like Netflix and Amazon, Hulu also creates original content. While its offerings have typically been a mixed bag and many shows don’t get renewed, its track record is trending upward. Some of Hulu’s best original releases include Castle Rock, Harlots, Helstrom, High Fidelity, Little Fires Everywhere, Marvel’s Runaways, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Veronica Mars. Ramy and The Act both won Golden Globe awards. Hulu is also one of our picks for the best video-streaming services for celebrating Black art.

HULU

PROS

Excellent selection of TV series. Extensive live TV channel lineup. Robust cloud DVR option. Available on nearly every media-streaming device.

CONS

Base on-demand plan includes ads. Offline downloads feature requires premium account. Fewer high-quality originals than competitors. Missing most SportsNet and all Bally Sports RSNs.

BOTTOM LINE

Hulu is a dependable option for streaming new and classic shows as well as live TV on nearly every platform. It’s a top choice among video-streaming services.

Netflix’s originals, including The Crown, Bojack Horseman, Stranger Things, and The Witcher, are generally more successful than Hulu’s. Other streaming services also outclass Hulu. For example, Amazon has a growing list of top-notch originals, including Bosch, Fleabag, Patriot, Hunters, The Boys, The Expanse, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and Undone. HBO Max offers a substantial catalog of quality past and current shows including Barry, Big Little Lies, Deadwood, Silicon Valley, Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, The Wire, Westworld, and VEEP.

Hulu’s library of movies is decent, including mainstream movies such as Parasite and Rocketman. Things are looking up in 2021, though, with Hulu snagging the same-day release premieres of Nomadland and The United States vs. Billie Holiday, both of which won Golden Globe awards. That said, movie fans will likely want to subscribe to one of the available channel add-ons.

Hulu does produce some original movies, including Happiest Season, Palm Springs (which was nominated for a Golden Globe), and Run. Foreign films on the platform include Shoplifters and A Breath Away. Despite Hulu’s efforts, though, Netflix currently offers the best movie library of any of the video-streaming services.

LIVE TV AND SPORTS

Hulu + Live TV’s channel lineup should please most general audiences, with a deep lineup of content across the news, entertainment, and sports categories. News channels include ABC News, CBS News, CNBC, CNN, CNN International, Fox Business, Fox News, and MSNBC. Entertainment coverage is similarly varied with options such as Animal Planet, Cartoon Network, Discovery, Disney, Food Network, FX, HGTV, National Geographic, SYFY, TBS, Travel Channel, TLC, and TNT. You also get the movie channels FXM and TCM. In addition to live feeds of these channels, you can watch on-demand content from each of these networks. For fans of channels from Discovery Inc. (such as Animal Planet, Food Network, and HGTV), Discovery Plus is a much cheaper, albeit on-demand, streaming service.

Hulu has added live Viacom channels, such as Comedy Central, MTV, and Nickelodeon, to its lineup, too. If you are specifically interested in those channels, the much-less-expensive Philo includes them in its lineup.

As for sports, Hulu’s lineup includes BTN, CBS Sports, ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPNEWS, Golf Channel, and Olympic Channel. That’s all in addition to local channels you get in your ZIP code, such as ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC cable affiliates. Recently, Hulu added NFL Network to its channel lineup at no additional cost and launched the $9.99-per-month Sports add-on, which includes the NFL RedZone channel (along with MAVTV, Outdoor Channel, Sportsman Channel, TVG, and TVG2). These additions cement Hulu + Live TV as one of the top options for streaming NFL games. FuboTV, Sling TV, and YouTube TV all include the NFL Network channel in at least one of their plans and offer NFL RedZone as part of an add-on package.

While Hulu’s lineup features NBC-owned RSNs (regional sports networks), it lacks most AT&T-owned RSNs (except for SportsNet NY) and every Sinclair-owned Bally Sports RSN (previously, these were FOX Sports RSNs). AT&T TV is the only live TV service we’ve reviewed that includes RSNs from AT&T, NBC, and Sinclair, though it is missing a few NBC Sports RSNs. Make sure to find out which RSN airs your local team’s games before committing to any sports streaming service.

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