Hulu App to Offer Free TV Episodes and Remote Casting

Soon we will be able to stream full TV episodes to the Hulu mobile app for free. The app that previously required the $7.99 monthly Hulu Plus subscription was updated last fall to allow streaming of video clips. This summer, Hulu will offer free access to full episodes on smartphones and tablets. The app will be ad-supported, so you’ll be expected to tolerate in-app advertising along with “commercial breaks” in exchange for the privilege of watching your favorite shows without monthly fees.

Until now, you could only stream full episodes for free on a computer via the Hulu website. Still, this free offering does not include all network TV shows and some of the free episodes are not available until almost a week after the initial air date. We should expect that there will be similar limitations in the new free mobile app offering.

The free app is subsidized by advertising which will take new forms in the Hulu app. The newest advertising option is in-app ordering. Mobile app users will be able to order a pizza from Pizza Hut without leaving the Hulu mobile app. There will also be advertising tailored to your interests and interactive ads.

While the mobile app will be able to stream for free, note that you will still need a Hulu Plus subscription to stream to media player devices that connect to your TV—Apple TV, WDTV Play, NETGEAR NeoTV, Roku and others. You may be able to get around the Hulu Plus fees by mirroring a mobile device to a media player—using AirPlay on an iPhone or iPad to mirror on Apple TV, or using Miracast on an Android device or Kindle Fire to smart TVs, media players, or Amazon Fire TV.

Hulu has also announced that the existing mobile app now works as a remote (companion app) in conjunction with the Hulu app on Xbox One, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4. I tried the “cast” feature from my iPhone to the Xbox One. When I tapped on the “cast” button in the app, a list of devices appeared that included not only my Xbox One, but also my Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV. A major benefit of the Hulu mobile app is that it automatically pairs with the media playing device and does not require entering a code in the same way that you pair the YouTube app with a media player.

The app’s remote feature works the same for all of these devices. Once you cast from the app to a device, you can control playback, including pause/play, seeking a scene, and a 10-second rewind. While watching a show that is cast to the TV, you can continue to browse the Hulu mobile app, adding to your queues or finding the next show to watch. If you have to leave before you finish watching a show, you can resume playback on the Hulu smartphone or tablet app (or continue watching it on the Hulu app on another mobile device).

With Hulu’s increasing advertising revenue, which may have reached $1 billion in 2013, the company can afford to offer a bit more content for free. It’s certainly good news for cable cutters who don’t want to spend the money for Hulu Plus in order to watch current network TV shows on the Hulu app.