While there are loads of new streaming services out there (and, frankly, we’re headed towards a new paradigm where cable services no longer bundle channels but streaming services), right now Netflix and Amazon are currently standing tall. Netflix was early out the gate and they’ve made the smart moves to expand their reach. Meanwhile, Amazon has been a bit slower out the gate, but Prime Streaming also has a solid selection of films and TV shows as well as just being a bonus you get if you’re a Prime member.
Meanwhile, Hulu has been an awkward also-ran for many years. At one point, it at least had the benefit of having the Criterion Collection, but now those films have moved on to the new streaming service, FilmStruck. Additionally, Hulu tried to saddle its content with commercials, which made it an odd investment—you were paying a monthly fee plus you had to watch the same three ads with every episode. Additionally, while Hulu billed itself as the place to watch your favorite TV shows, too often those shows were limited to the five most recent episodes or you could only watch them at a computer rather than on your TV.
Hulu hasn’t solved all these problems, but they’ve solved enough to finally make them a worthwhile player. For starters, they finally have a pricing tier that’s ad-free. For $11.99/month, you get no commercials, so that’s pretty much the same deal you’re getting with Netflix with the added benefit that Hulu has newer network shows (there’s still a $7.99/month tier that does contain ads, but trust me—just spend the extra four dollars per month).
But ultimately the name of the game is content, and that’s where Hulu is finally starting to shine. While the service touts the entire runs of shows like Seinfeld and South Park, it also plays home to 9 seasons of The X-Files, all of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, all of Angel, all of Firefly, and more. Buffy, Angel, and Firefly used to be on Netflix, but they’ve left that service and migrated to Hulu. I doubt they’ll be the last shows where that happens. Since Netflix is choosing not to renew the expensive licensing rights for TV shows in favor of producing its own content, it’s not a surprise that another streaming service is willing to snap up that content.
Hulu also has shows that never made it to Netflix or Amazon at all. I didn’t get around to catching season two of Fargo when it was airing, but now it’s all on Hulu. The $11.99 I’m spending to binge it is cheaper than paying the $15 I would have to pay to buy the DVD on Amazon.
There’s also a surprising amount of worthwhile movies on Hulu. Granted, it’s not the halcyon days where they had the Criterion Collection, but as of this writing, they currently have Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Anatomy of a Murder, O.J. Made in America, Selma, The Voices, Mulan, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Creed, Interstellar, A Knight’s Tale, Everybody Wants Some!!, Iron Man, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Sicario, Almost Famous, and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation just to name a few.
Additionally, Hulu is going to be introducing some live-TV into a pricing plan, so if you’re cut the cord on cable, but what some channels, it might be a good deal. However, there are plenty of caveats, especially when it comes to affiliate programming and stuff from Viacom, Discovery, and AMC, which is absent from the service. Recode has the details on what they’re planning to roll out, so you should see if it’s right for you.
But if you’re on the fence about getting Hulu because you don’t know if it’s worth it just for The Handmaid’s Tale or Marvel’s upcoming Runaways, you’re definitely going to get a valuable streaming service. Although I agree that it can seem to pile up if you’re subscribed to Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, each one has content that makes them valuable. If you wrote off Hulu because you thought it saddled you with ads or that there wasn’t enough content to make it worth a subscription, it’s at least worth a free trial to give it a spin.