Wish you could catch up with The Handmaid’s Tale but don’t have the spare time to binge for hours in front of a TV? Hulu may have you covered thanks to a new initiative that will open some of its programming for offline watching — with a catch.
Hulu has announced it will begin making some of its shows available for downloading, allowing them to be watched on compatible devices untethered from an internet connection. The streaming service, which is enjoying a big bump in subscriptions thanks in no small part to the success of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian alternate take on American history, has indicated the new feature will be available to subscribers beginning “during the 2018-19 upfront season,” which wraps in mid-May.
Hulu revealed the new service during its recent annual pitch to advertisers, no doubt in an effort to highlight its rejuvenated competitiveness with streaming giants like Netflix (which already offers an offline mode) and Amazon Prime. Unlike Amazon Prime’s model, Hulu’s move doesn’t open single episodes up for a la carte purchase. Rather, the feature will be built in to every subscription package, allowing viewers to download content when connected to the internet so they can watch it at their convenience — whether that’s from a phone or tablet during a transit commute or simply from their televisions at home.
Advertising is built in to Hulu’s downloading model, which means unconnected viewers who’ve already signed up for the service’s $7.99 per-month ad-based service won’t be able to skip past the offline-only ads. But those who’ve subscribed to the ad-free tier (at $11.99 per month) will get the same ad-free experience offline as they currently enjoy with their connected experience.
The new option “will make it possible for subscribers to access their favorite shows and movies on the go, with no internet connection required,” Hulu said in a release, “and will give advertisers the opportunity to reach their target audiences in a viewing experience never before available to advertisers.”
Season 1 of The Handmaid’s Tale drove the service’s biggest-ever single-year surge in new sign-ups, garnering eight Primetime Emmys (including Outstanding Drama Series) — a feat no other streaming service had previously managed with in-house content. Hulu didn’t announce which shows it will make available for offline viewing, but it’s a reasonable bet that its original programming will offer the biggest draw.
Season 2 of The Handmaid’s Tale has just gotten underway, and Hulu is already promising a third season is in the works. Add that to Hulu's stepped-up commitment to original genre programming, which includes a new DreamWorks Animation deal, the Blumhouse-developed Into the Dark horror series, Stephen King's Castle Rock, and a new Animaniacs revival, and you may have enough downloadable goodies to keep that smartphone battery perpetually drained — no matter where you are.