Hulu has announced that it will finally bring offline viewing to the streaming service later this year for both its Hulu with Ads and basic Hulu subscription tiers.
It’s the latest in a fusilade against Amazon Prime and Netflix, both of which announced offline viewing over a year ago and have supported it ever since.
While the news means that you’ll finally be able to watch shows from Fox, Disney, NBC, CBS and others on airplanes and areas with poor or no cell reception, there’s also a significant catch to the deal: If you’re a Hulu with Ads subscriber, you’re going to download the ads you would’ve seen online with every episode.
Offline viewing is being implemented in this way, it seems, to placate advertisers and broadcasters who count on Hulu to display ads in front of its content. While that sounds outright upsetting, the brightside is that it might encourage shows and films that might not have allowed offline viewing in the past to warm up to the idea.
Hulu also used the forum where it announced the offline news to talk about its other advertising initiative: dynamic ads that will interrupt content during live segments for its Hulu with Live TV customers. Hulu imagines these ads will appear in between news and sports segments where ads aren’t currently, though it hasn't stated when these dynamic advertisements would make their way into the service.
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Advocates of a better streaming experience will see ads as a major problem - as Hulu is using storage space on your device for advertisements and that was one reason that offline viewing has thus-far been ad-free.
The fear here, some might think, is that Hulu’s decision could create a new norm for paid streaming services - one in which money is paid to the streaming service for downloadable content, but also that content will come with ads. Imagine if Google Play Movies rented a TV series to you for $3.99 per episode and then played ads every seven or eight minutes - just like traditional cable TV networks do.
To cushion the blow, Hulu has also announced a deal with Dreamworks Animation Studios that the streaming service will be the exclusive home to a number feature films including How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, The Boss Baby 2 and Trolls 2 in 2019, plus some of the film studio’s older films like Shrek and Shark Tale in 2020.
If 2020 seems a bit too far away, you can look forward to new original content from Hulu starting later this year: Hulu announced a number of new series including projects from J.J. Abrams, Stephen King, Mindy Kaling, George Clooney, Reese Witherspoon and Kerri Washington - the former of which, called Castle Rock, is set to debut July 25.
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