Hulu, one of the world’s largest and most well-known ways to watch television shows the day after they air live, is adding free streaming for users who have a smartphone running Google’s Android operating system, like the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the HTC One.
Hulu announced today that users of Android-based smartphones and tablets can stream a large portion of its content absolutely free. An updated Android app in the Google Play Store will include access to the newly free content.
In many ways, Hulu isn’t changing its business model. Instead, it’s positioning its mobile apps as true alternatives to its website. Galaxy S5 and users of other Android-based smartphones can look forward to accessing any of the service’s content without a subscription to Hulu Plus – provided that the show is already free on the web. Originally, Hulu allowed users to stream television shows for free online the day after they aired. Then Hulu Plus launched as a way to make the service available on smartphones and tablets. Users on those devices were required to pay for a Hulu Plus subscription, even if they could watch the same series through their computer’s web browser for free.
To be clear, Hulu is still holding back on Android users. Since only the shows that are free on the web are free on mobile devices – with a few exceptions – there are large chunks of content that will still require a $7.99 subscription to Hulu Plus. For example, last night’s episode of comedy & news program The Daily Show is free for users to watch online. Presumably, that show is also available for Galaxy S5 and other Android users to watch too. On the other hand, past seasons of ABC’s Modern Family aren’t available for users to watch without a Hulu Plus subscription on Android. In addition to allowing users to stream television network’s content, Hulu also makes its own television shows. Entire seasons of those shows are available for Android users to stream without a Hulu Plus subscription. That’s key’ in most cases only the last few episodes of newer shows are available for free with advertisements.
Hulu’s decision to make some of its content free on Android isn’t a surprise. Earlier this year Hulu announced that it would be changing the way it handles mobile devices. Hulu’s exact motives for doing so aren’t clear, but it is pretty apparent that more and more users are watching television shows and movies on their mobile devices. That left Hulu at a disadvantage unless it relented on requiring all mobile users to purchase Hulu Plus.
Unfortunately, all other mobile users are being left out of the free streaming offering for now. The mobile app for Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system was last updated in April. That update included bug fixes but no way for users to watch Hulu for free. The Hulu Plus app for users with Windows desktops, laptops and tablets still requires a Hulu Plus subscription too, which is weird since users can watch many shows for free if they just use the platform’s Internet Explorer web browser instead of logging in using the company’s Windows Store app. In April Hulu did reveal that there was a next-generation Hulu for iPhone app on its way this summer, but the current version doesn’t offer users free streaming.
At least for now, nothing seems to be changing for the Hulu apps meant for televisions and set-top boxes. For now, those remain strictly Hulu Plus territory meaning users need to pay $7.99 before they’re allowed to watch content on their television. That’s true even if that content is available for free on the web or on their Android smartphone. Unlike with iPhone, Hulu hasn’t revealed any plans to change that.
The updated Hulu Plus app is now available in the Google Play Store now.