Hulu rolls out $12/month ad-free service. Is it a good deal?


Yesterday Hulu added a new add-free tier to its streaming service, and reactions around the tech blogosphere seem to be all over the place.

In case you missed it, here're the details. The new tier is $11.99/month with no ads for most of the content on Hulu. There are two sets of exceptions. First are a few shows which Hulu is contractually obligated to keep serving ads with. For those shows there'll be an ad before and after an episode, but none during the show. Hulu says the list of shows that have to have ads may change, but for now we're talking about Grey’s Anatomy, Once Upon A Time, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Scandal, Grimm, New Girl, and How To Get Away With Murder.

The second exception is a few shows that you can only watch after logging in through your cable provider. Hulu says these shows are technically not part of your Hulu subscription. They mention Suits as an example of such a program.

If you don't want to spend $11.99/month, the old $7.99/month with-ads service remains, and for watching on your computer the free tier is also still around.

As I said, reaction to the new service seems to be all over the place, from people just happy to get rid of ads to those who find the price too high, often comparing it to Netflix's $8.99/month ad-free service.

I'm OK with the pricing. You can't directly compare Netflix to Hulu because (setting aside original programming) shows don't usually hit Netflix until months after a season has finished airing on TV; that's a long time to avoid spoilers! With Hulu you generally don't have to wait more than 8 days after a show aired to watch it.

My cable company charges me $15/month for DVR service. I'm considering ditching that in favor of Hulu's new ad-free tier. (I'll have to compare shows I watch to the list of what I can get on Hulu before I decide for sure). Granted it'll mean I'll be a week behind everyone else and so will miss out on a lot of the social media chatter about popular shows, but it still might be a reasonable trade-off. I'll save a few bucks and not have to fast forward through ads.

The other thing to keep in mind about Hulu is that it's super-easy to tweak your service. I put my subscription "On Hold" frequently (doing so saves all your account info, queues and other data), and re-activate it when I'm ready to watch some Hulu content. I can see myself bumping up to ad-free when I'm watching a season of something (in other words, using the service heavily) and then turning it down to with-ads when I'm just casually watching a show every now and then.

I recently subscribed to Showtime through Hulu and that was a positive experience as well. Showtime via Hulu is an additional $8.99/month.

The other news that factors into all this is the Epix deal. Late last week Netflix's contract with Epix expired and Netflix didn't renew. Hulu swooped in and sealed a multi-year deal with Epix, and their movies (including titles like The Hunger Games, Selma, and Interstellar) will start hitting the service on October 1st. You won't see these films on Netflix or Amazon Prime, just on Hulu. You can learn more about the Epix deal on Hulu's blog. Of course, I doubt Hulu planned on chopping these films up to intersperse ads into them, but I'm just saying these movies may be another reason to have some kind of Hulu subscription.

Overall, I'm in favor of this new ad-free tier. To me it makes Hulu a lot more compelling (the worst thing about the ads on Hulu now is that you see the same ad over and over and over) and as long as you manage your subscription and 'turn it down' or put it on hold when you're not actively using the service heavily, it seems like a good value to me. Near-current TV with no ads for $12/month feels very fair. 

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