10 Hacks to Get the Most Out of Hulu

Illustration: by Martin Gee

Hulu might not have the trophy case of original content boasted by Netflix, but the veteran streaming service has still miraculously evolved from a simple, syndicated TV archive to a genuinely vital factor in the ongoing streaming wars. The company claims both fetishizable back catalogues (it’s the singular home of all things Star Trek) and a bevy of prestige properties (The Handmaid’s Tale and Mrs. America, to start).

And like every other streaming apparatus that’s existed for over a decade, Hulu has added and altered countless new features during its time on the internet, and those fluctuations can be hard to parse for newcomers. So below, we’ve collected ten tips to make your Hulu exploration more palatable, from watch parties to customized subtitles.

1. Browse by Network

I feel a little imprisoned by the algorithm. Yes, I know I just watched The Act, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I want my entire front page to be dominated by other shows about toxic parenting, okay? Maybe I want to get outside of my lane a little bit! One of the easiest ways to do that on Hulu is to browse by its network index, giving you the full expanse of the service’s boundless offerings. To do that, select “Browse” then “Networks” and filter by “A-Z.” Finally, a chance to plumb through the grim depths of A&E without needing to parse through any inscrutable genre tags! Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

2. Turn Your Phone Into a Remote

The worst part about owning a smart TV is finding the remote. In my household, we’ve gone days at a time trying to determine where the tiny Roku rod slipped between the cushions. Thankfully, if you have AirPlay or a Chromecast, that problem can be easily solved. All you have to do is make sure you’re on the same Wi-Fi as your streaming device and download the Hulu app. From there, choose whatever you want to watch on your phone, select your TV from the casting menu, and relax in the satisfaction that you’ll rarely need to get on your hands and knees to explore the recesses under the couch ever again.

3. Turn on Dark Mode

There are two types of people in this world: Those who use dark mode on every service that allows it and those who haven’t discovered the function’s glory yet. Hulu hosts its own dark mode, which can be activated in the settings menu, so never again will you be forced to deal with that harsh blue light disrupting the pleasant, amniotic bliss of your fifth consecutive episode of Deep Space Nine.

4. Consider the Bundle

Most of the tips here are mechanical in nature, but we’d be remiss not to mention that there is no reason anyone in the world should be paying for ESPN+, Disney+, and Hulu independently. The Disney conglomerate is offering all three of those services bundled together for a svelte $14 a month, which is six bucks cheaper compared to subscribing to them separately. Certainly something worth considering if you are the rare soul who’s both a huge Handmaid’s Tale and college-baseball fan.

5. Host a Watch Party

It’s a Friday night, and as much as you want to cancel plans and tear into Batman Begins in the peace of your bedroom, you can’t help but feel a little lonesome within that decision. Luckily, Hulu added a “Watch Party” feature late last year, which lets you and seven others jump into an impromptu cross-country movie night (so long as they’re also Hulu subscribers). Hooray! Now everyone gets to make fun of Christian Bale’s awkward Batman voice at the same time!

6. Customize Your Subtitles

I’m sure that you, like me, have spent the elongated COVID winter doing a deep dive on 1960s French comedies. But did you know you can alter the subtitles? Jump into the “Subtitles & Captions” menu in the settings bar and you can juice the opacity and increase the font size to your liking.

7. Pause Your Subscription When You’re Out of Town

I bet you can’t wait for your post-pandemic trip to the high steppes of Mongolia, where you will live in a cloistered yurt and roast wild yak on white coals for the next two months. It sure is a shame you’ll be paying for Hulu all the way back home while you’re gone, right? Well, Hulu actually allows anyone to pause their subscription for up to 12 weeks. Just go to the “Your Subscription” menu on your account page and ensure that you won’t be billed for those unwatched Justified episodes while you’re catching a layover in Ulaanbaatar.

8. Download Shows to Watch Offline

Ah, but how are you going to pass the time in that yurt, you ask? Thankfully, Hulu allows customers of its ad-free service to download up to 25 different episodes at a time, albeit with a 30-day expiration date. Turns out you really can be watching those Justified episodes in Ulaanbaatar, if you so choose!

9. Add to Your Watchlist

This tip is more aligned with those who subscribe to Hulu’s live TV package, as all of you cord-cutters out there have long forgotten about the ancestral concept of weekly episodes. But if you’re locked into the Bachelor or whatever, make sure to add those shows to your watchlist. Whenever a new episode airs, it’ll be ensconced front and center in the app, so you’ll never miss a beat.

10. Keep Your Watch History Clean

Are there some terrible shows gumming up your algorithm? Did your kid get their hands on the remote and binge through five seasons of Prison Break and now your recommendations tab is full of mid-2000s police procedurals? Don’t fret! Just go to the “Watch History” section in the home menu and purge Prison Break back to hell. The algorithm will take note, and your curatorial experience will be much happier.

10 Hacks to Get the Most Out of Hulu