Originally published 9/2013, this article has been republished due to repeated questions and the increased interest in Hulu with the Fall TV Schedule launching.
This article is going to focus on accessing the free version of Hulu at home on TV’s and mobile devices via PlayOn, a multifaceted media server and DMR (Digital Media Renderer) application with many capabilities.
Everybody’s Favorite Next Day Channel
There is not a more popular legal way to watch current TV shows through a computer or mobile device then Hulu. The company which is a joint venture between Disney, Fox and Comcast has millions of users utilizing both the “Freemium” online service and Hulu Plus pay service which was developed as a mobile app for use on tablets phones and select media streaming boxes.
Apples and Apples
There are a few subtle differences between the free version of Hulu when accessed through a computer and Hulu Plus. But one of the obvious differences is that one does not have to pay to access Hulu while using a computer. For 7.99 per month Hulu Plus also provides its users with full seasons of many current shows and even shows long since cancelled along with a wider selection of movies. It’s programming is available on the go through a smart phone or tablet and at home through a streaming devices which include game consoles, Roku products and Apple TV, Fire TV and the Chromecast through wireless devices. Both services allow users to view shows after they air on broadcast television.
It seems that as long as one is anchored to a desktop or even lugging a laptop the company will give you a break, but you pay a monthly “convenience tax” for the ease of portability. Remember when a slim laptop seemed like a portable convenience? This appears to be the unifying theory of the Hulu universe. But like many seemingly absolute theories further research sometimes opens another path.
How can I use the free version of Hulu?
Enter PlayOn. PlayOn is a media server based app for multiple platforms produced by Media Mall which allows users to access an entire universe of official and third party apps on their televisions and mobile devices. For our full article on PlayOn click here The app requires users to download a simple to install media server program to an internet connected laptop or desktop computer. Once installed one can stream content to many devices including, Roku boxes, Google TV, tablets, phones or even be utilized on dedicated HTPC’s, computers connected to TV’s for home theater entertainment purposes. For a complete listing of compatible devices see Playon’s official site click here
In order to utilize PlayOn on an HTPC it is helpful to have some sort of media center software such as XBMC or Windows Media Center. The computer must either be wired in to the same router or have a wireless card.
The PlayOn channel for Roku has many options but one of its most popular features is Hulu and like I said, this is the free version that you would otherwise only access via a computer. The reason this works on streaming boxes and mobile devices is that the actual media is being fed to the devices from a computer instead of directly from the internet. Playon is built from Microsoft’s windows explorer so Hulu’s website interacts with the program the same way it would directly accessing from a PC based browser instead of shifting the user to a mobile based web portal. If you are a user who generally utilizes Hulu online to catch up with shows week by week then utilizing Hulu’s Free content via a TV or tablet may be the perfect solution for your media needs. The free offerings include current shows from all major networks excluding CBS, who is not a partner with Hulu. Along with the traditional networks many cable offerings are also available. The app behaves differently depending on what platform you are utilizing it on. For Instance the app/channel for Roku utilizes a side scrolling method similar to many other Roku apps while the apps for IOS and Android devices and are optimized for a mobile platform. XBMC explores Hulu with a simple to follow list.
Where can I get the App
The PlayOn app is free to download but in order to utilize all of its features you must purchase the program. The company offers numerous special offers including lifetime access keys for $50.00 or less. Free Mobile Apps for phones and tablets are available via iTunes store, Google Play Store as well as the Blackberry official app store. The PlayOn Roku Channel can be added to your Roku via PlayOn’s own website or by clicking here. Once there, users are linked to Roku’s add on screen and prompted enter a short code. I personally purchased the program over a year ago and have used it on android tablets and an iPad and a Roku.