The way in which people digest their media has, in the past decade, changed beyond all recognition. Back when I was a schoolkid, we were still buying our music on CDs and the only way to watch the latest TV shows and movies were to either be in front of the TV, or in the cinema, at the right time. Miss them and the only other option was to wait until the DVD was in the shops or rent it from your local blockbuster.
The complete and utter demise of Blockbuster since my youth (and I promise you I’m not that old!) is symbolic of how the ways we watch TV and movies and listen to music has changed. Today, most people don’t even like to wait for programmes scheduled appearances on TV but instead watch the whole series in a single sitting online. And whilst cinemas continue to hold a virtual monopoly on new release movies, they too are appearing online earlier and earlier.
It has been possible to download media content for a fair while now, but what has really revolutionized the media world is online streaming services. There are several big name online streaming services available as well as countless smaller ones. But the pick of the bunch for me, without a shadow of a doubt, is Hulu.
There is just one problem. Hulu is not available outside the USA (apart from a version of the service in Japan). This means that many users are deprived on the great range of shows and hugely convenient service that Hulu offers.
But with a VPN, it doesn’t have to be that was because, as you can read below, with the help of a VPN, you can unlock Hulu and enjoy the full service no matter where in the world you are.
Best VPN for Hulu Criteria
There are scores of VPN providers on the market, but by no means all of them are ideal for users who want to access Hulu around the world.
This is at least in part due to Hulu’s concerted efforts to stop VPN users from being able to access their service abroad. They have worked hard to try and block the individual IP addresses of many VPNs and whilst this is by no means a perfect block, it is inconvenient for VPN users if their Hulu service is regularly interrupted.
Therefore, in this article, we have identified our pick of the top 3 best VPNs for Hulu which consistently work with Hulu. In doing so we, we have applied the following criteria:
- An established VPN provider with a proven record of unblocking regionally restricted sites.
- Fast and reliable connection speeds able to stream video content smoothly
- Strong security and privacy policies
- Global availability of service.
- A good selection of servers based in the USA.
- Ability to consistently access Hulu from locations across the world
Using these criteria, we have concluded the following three VPNs are best placed for accessing Hulu:
ExpressVPN is perhaps the best known and most highly regarded VPN provider around, and with good reason, because it really is hard to find anything to criticise ExpressVPN about.
The service is available on a wide range of platforms and operating systems, with dedicated apps available for iOS and Android devices. Their entire network is SSL secured with 256-bit encryption making the levels of security peerless, while their location in the British Virgin Islands means their privacy policies are as robust as any you will find elsewhere.
When it comes to streaming video content, their connections are fast and consistent regardless of which server you choose to connect to. They also offer a wide range of servers, especially in the USA, with servers currently located in New York, New Jersey, Washington DC, Atlanta, Miami, Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco, and Seattle.
ExpressVPN is available to use in just about every country around the world and in my personal experience, accessing Hulu has never been a problem. I have used ExpressVPN for this purpose in locations as diverse as Australia, Taiwan, Russia, South Africa, and Egypt, and the service has been faultless every time.
No VPN can guarantee a 100% perfect service all the time, but when it comes to accessing Hulu abroad, ExpressVPN is about as close as you will get.
ALL PLANS are covered by a no-hassle 100% Money-Back Guarantee for your first 30 days of service. ExpressVPN are so confident you’ll stick with them, that they’ll throw in an extra THREE MONTHS FREE if you get the annual plan. That takes the monthly price down to only $8.32.
NordVPN is also a highly regarded and well-established VPN provider. For a long time, it was my personal VPN of choice, and it was only the constant road testing of different VPNs that caused me to end my subscription.
They can go shoulder-to-shoulder with ExpressVPN on just about every criteria and more than hold their own. Their security levels are not quite at ExpressVPNs level, but more than sufficient for most users. They offer 256-bit encryption on OpenVPN with 2,048-bit Diffie-Hellman keys. Their location in Panama is also one which means their privacy policies can be trusted without question.
When it comes to speeds, they are not quite at ExpressVPN’s level for consistency, but things are getting better. In my experience, most US-based servers will stream Hulu without problems, although there are a couple which were, at times, a little slower than I would have liked.
Their range of servers is huge though, with 336 of their total of 799 servers being based in the USA. This means there is plenty of choice for users who want to access Hulu from abroad.
NordVPN also offers an additional tool should accessing Hulu prove problematic. Their SmartPlay technology, which is a type of proxy service, claims to be able to facilitate access to any site and is now built into their service. Personally, I never encountered a problem with Hulu before, but SmartPlay has helped me access other streaming sites, and it certainly offers a reassuring safety net and is, therefore, another good reason to opt for NordVPN.
Extended deal: NordVPN has extended its very popular 2 year which adds a huge 72% discount to the monthly price. It’s slightly hidden on the site and we can’t find details of how long this will run for but at the time of writing it can be found here.
Our final pick for a VPN to use with Hulu is another established name in the VPN market; IPVanish. They are another provider which has the experience and breadth of service to hold their own against the other names on this list.
When it comes to security, IPVanish offers both L2TP and OpenVPN protocols, with both using 256-bit encryption as standard. On privacy, they do fall a little short because they are registered in the USA. Whilst the US does not currently have any data retention laws which affect VPNs, the current policy trend suggests it is only a matter of time and this, therefore, might be something users will want to be wary of.
When it comes to speed, IPVanish sits neck-and-neck with ExpressVPN with fast and reliable connections across their range of servers. This range is huge, with more than 40,000 IP Addresses across 750+ servers in more than 60 countries. And as you would expect from a US-based company, this includes many in the USA as well.
They are another provider which I have tried with Hulu in different countries around the world and again I have never encountered any problems with accessing the site or streaming content. For me, this makes IPVanish another great bet for a VPN to use with Hulu.
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What is Hulu?
Hulu is a US based online streaming service which is built around a user subscription model. It is owned by Hulu LLC, which is a partnership between some of the biggest US media companies.
The Walt Disney Company own 30% of Hulu LLC, 21st Century Fox owns 30%, Comcast (as NBCUniversal) own 30%, and a minority 10% stake is held by TimeWarner.
The name Hulu is taken from Mandarin Chinese where the word húlú (葫芦/葫蘆) means a holder of precious things, while hùlù (互录/互錄) means interactive recording. The founders felt both terms were applicable to the service they wanted to provide and so Hulu was born.
This wasn’t until a year after the concept was first devised, in March 2006. The service did not formally launch in the USA until March 12th 2008.
Today Hulu is one of the biggest subscription streaming services in the USA. Unlike some of its rivals, it is mainly focused on TV content rather than movies. It carries shows from a huge range of US networks such as A&E, Big Ten Network, Bravo, E!, Fox Sports 2, FX, G4, PBS, NFL Network, Oxygen, RT America, Fox Sports 1, Esquire Network, SundanceTV, Syfy, USA Network, NBCSN, and even some online comedy content from places like the Onion News Network.
They have held exclusive deals to stream some big TV shows including South Park, Coronation Street, the Mindy Project, Moone Boy, and the Thick of It. Hulu has also made its own original online content including a pop-culture show called ‘The Morning After’, a political drama called ‘Battleground’, and a reality show called ‘The Fashion Fund’. They also had a movie discussion show hosted by cult Hollywood director Kevin Smith called ‘Spoilers’.
Hulu’s decision to focus on TV was a bold one at the time but has proved to be prescient. US TV has unquestionably been going through a golden age in the past decade, with a huge number of top quality dramas, comedies, and documentaries attracting the crème de la crème of the acting and directing world back to the big screen.
This has undoubtedly played a big part in Hulu’s success as the appetite for these shows has been huge. This is true both in the USA and in the wider world beyond and this is where Hulu’s first big problem arises.
Where can I watch Hulu?
Hulu is one of the USA’s top online TV streaming services at a time when the demand for access to US TV shows is reaching record levels. This demand exists around the world, as well as within the USA, which is a problem for Hulu.
This is because as of June 2015, Hulu is only available in two countries around the world; the USA and Japan.
As far back as 2010, Hulu’s Chief Executive Jason Kilar was talking about taking Hulu global. In an interview with the Financial Times, he was quoted as saying “we won’t be satisfied until this is a global service.” He indicated at the time that the UK and Japan were target markets in the first instance.
But in the intervening years, only a Japanese Hulu service has come to fruition. And even that service has to come with some caveats.
In 2013, Hulu’s Japanese operation was purchased by Japan’s Nippon Television Network Corporation. This ownership model has seen the content offered by Hulu is Japan differ markedly from that available in the USA.
In Japan, Hulu subscribers can enjoy popular Japanese TV and film content, some Hollywood movies, and a library, which is by no means comprehensive, of popular US TV shows and movies. Some of the shows on offer include the various CSI franchises, Prison Break, Ugly Betty, and Grey’s Anatomy. But many of the latest US dramas and comedies are absent.
The reason for this is a similar problem to the one faced by Netflix and other online streaming services. Hulu simply doesn’t hold the rights to stream many of the shows on their US service in Japan.
Hulu in Canada
One market where Hulu is particularly conspicuous by its absence is Canada and the reason for this is down to their business model.
Hulu makes money from subscriptions and advertising. But in Canada, the advertising revenues are a fraction of what is available in the USA. This makes launching Hulu in Canada uneconomic; a reason which is likely the cause of their continued absence from the UK and other markets.
So, unless you happen to be after the best of Japanese entertainment, there is really only one true Hulu service and that is based in the USA.
Can I watch Hulu if I am outside the USA?
Because Hulu only holds the rights to stream its content in the USA (plus a few in Japan too), if you try to access their service from outside the USA, you will encounter problems.
This is because Hulu uses geo-restriction technology to ensure that only users within the USA can access their service.
Geo-restriction technology is a clever tool used by most online streaming services to identify where their users are located and use that information to decide what, if any, services they are able to view.
It is quite simple and works by looking at each user’s IP Address. An IP Address, if you are not already familiar with the term, is a unique code that each internet user generates when online. It tells the sites you are visiting about your connection and, most crucially, where in the world you are logging on from.
By looking at a user’s IP address, Hulu can determine if they are in the USA or not and therefore whether to allow them to access the Hulu streaming service or not.
That may sound like an insurmountable problem, but actually, it is surprisingly easy to access Hulu from wherever you are in the world. All you need to do is employ the services of a VPN.
How can I use a VPN to access Hulu around the world?
A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, works by redirecting all of your online traffic down a secure pathway and via an encrypted server before it reaches the websites and online services you are trying to use.
This redirection happens in the blink of an eye but is crucial for those looking to access geo-restricted sites. Because when you traffic travels through a VPNs server, it adopts the IP Address of that server instead of your home connection.
This is useful for VPN users for two reasons. Firstly, it helps to anonymize your traffic which is valuable in an age when governments, corporations, and copyright trolls, are increasingly keen to monitor our every move online.
And secondly, the location of the server can help you to unblock geo-restricted services like Hulu.
Almost every VPN will offer at least one US-based server. If you connect to the internet via one of your VPNs US servers, all the sites and services you use will believe you are located in the USA.
This means that when trying to access Hulu, it appears that you are located in the USA and the service should both open and function as usual.
So, all that is needed to unblock Hulu is a VPN subscription (which will no more than a few dollars a month) and a connection through one of their US servers.