6 Best VPN and Smart DNS Services for HULU

Hulu is an American-owned, partially ad-powered, online streaming service. It offers a wide range of TV shows, clips, movies, documentaries, and other video-on-demand (VOD). As with other major streaming providers, access to Hulu requires a monthly subscription.

Hulu works on any internet-enabled device, including tablets, smartphones, games consoles, Smart TVs, set-top boxes, as well as laptops and desktops. Unlike its competitors, Hulu streams current TV shows and series the day after they air.

Due to geographic restrictions, the service, including its catalogue, is not available to residents of certain countries. However, the blocks can be bypassed with the help of VPN or Smart DNS services, which spoof the location of its user to a country where Hulu is available to view. This guide will, in brief, look at Hulu’s history and present a definitive list of the most recommended virtual private network and Smart DNS providers for bypassing Hulu’s geo-restrictions.

Summary

Logo Name Links Monthly Price
OverPlay OverPlay Read Review
Visit Provider
$4.95
ibVPN ibVPN Read Review
Visit Provider
$4.95
PureVPN PureVPN Read Review
Visit Provider
$9.95
CactusVPN CactusVPN Read Review
Visit Provider
$4.99
HideIpVPN HideIpVPN Read Review
Visit Provider
$4.95
Unblock US Unblock-US Read Review
Visit Provider
$4.99

Quick Links


About Hulu

Hulu began life in 2007 amid discussions with numerous large tech corporations, including Facebook, AOL, Comcast, MSN, MySpace, and Yahoo. After several celebrity-starred advertisement campaigns on the NBC network, its website went live in the US in 2008. During this early period, its streaming service was free to use and included limited advertising. In 2010, however, it introduced its Hulu Plus monthly subscription service, though it still featured commercials. Subscription did introduce additional benefits though, including an extended content library with full seasons, next-day-access to current shows, and an extended range of episodes.

Following the introduction of subscription, Hulu gained considerable popularity with monthly video streams reaching 903 million by 2010, which was three times that of the previous year and was topped only by the market leaders at that time, YouTube. In 2011, Hulu’s revenue stood at $420 million, a surprising $80 million short of expert predictions. A year after Hulu Plus was introduced, the service boasted 1.5 million paying subscribers. At the time of writing there are more than 9 million.

Currently, Hulu is joint-owned by Disney, Fox, and NBC. As well as its streaming service, it also provides web syndication for other websites, including Facebook, AOL, MSN, Yahoo!, Myspace, and Comcast’s XfinityTV, meaning that Hulu video feeds are embedded on other websites.

For those curious about the origins of the company name, “Hulu” is taken from two Mandarin Chinese words, húlú and hùlù, the former meaning “gourd; a storage place for precious things,” and the latter denoting “interactive recording”.

Watching HULU
Together with services like Netflix, HULU has fundamentally transformed the format through which many of us watch TV shows.

Hulu subscription explained

Following mounting criticism about their use of advertising for their HuluPlus service, Hulu announced in September 2015 that they would be introducing an additional ad-free subscription plan, Hulu SHOWTIME. Currently, a standard Hulu subscription costs $7.99 a month, while SHOWTIME sets you back an additional $8.99 per month (that’s on top of the $7.99 you’re already paying). An initial free trial of SHOWTIME is available, usually for one week. Keep a look out for special deals, often promoted by set-top box providers, which extend the free trial period. Roku, for example, recently offered users a free trial of two months, which included access to the complete Hulu library.

Note: Hulu recently dropped the ‘Plus’ from their HuluPlus plan, so don’t worry if you can’t find the Plus package listed on their website, now it’s just called Hulu.

Hulu versus Netflix

Access to online streaming services has skyrocketed in recent years and the market continues to grow. At present, Hulu’s main competitor is the market leader, Netflix.

Despite being less popular than Netflix, Hulu has the edge over its American twin in one aspect at least: they offer next-day HD access to a wide selection of TV shows that are currently airing (except for those on the CBS network). Note that some of these shows are restricted to the last five episodes, which can be frustrating for subscribers who have just started watching a series and want to start from the beginning of the season.

Aside from next-day access, many users choose Netflix over Hulu since they have a broader range of content and better remote compatibility with handheld devices. Netflix is also considered better for movies, though Hulu has a wider selection of TV shows and Anime. If you’re the kind of viewer who likes to keep up to date with TV series as they are released then Hulu is the better option.

Both Hulu and Netflix subscribers can share what they’ve been watching on various social networks, including Facebook and Twitter, and can even access recommendations based on what their friends like.

Other emerging VOD competitors include Amazon Prime and Yahoo Screen, though as of yet both are still under development.

Devices and Platforms

HULU Playstation app
HULU offers apps for numerous types of devices, including Playstation.

Hulu is available on a wide range of devices and platforms. VOD can be accessed on laptops, desktops, smartphones, tablets, video game consoles, and the newer Smart TVs and Blu-ray players. For those with older TVs, you’ll need a set-top box, which can be plugged directly into your TV. Inexpensive boxes are available through Apple TV, Roku, Google TV, Netgear, and others. Specific devices include iOS, Android, Nook, Kindle Fire, Kindle HD, and Windows Phone 8. For the gamers out there, PS4, XboxOne, and Wii U are all compatible with Hulu, as well as the older Xbox 360, PS3, Nintendo 3DS, and Wii.

Note: there are no restrictions on how much Hulu content you can watch on desktops and laptops, though there are limits for handheld devices, consoles, and top-set boxes. To get around this, you can hook up your TV to a laptop or computer. For remote play, Hulu is compatible with Google Chromecast, which allows subscribers to use their iPhone, iPad, or Android device as a remote control for TV streaming.

Geographic Restrictions

As of the beginning of 2015, Hulu is available only to subscribers living in Japan and the US and its territories. Other regions are blocked according to their IP location, a restriction that has frustrated many current and potential Hulu subscribers. Many users found a way around these geo-restrictions by using a VPN, though these subscribers have been thwarted, often receiving warning messages stating that proxy services are not allowed.

Many subscribers have received the following error message while trying to access Hulu through a VPN or other proxy:

HULU VPN block

Starting in April 2014 Hulu began actively blocking known IP ranges used by VPN providers, most likely in a bid to satisfy TV and movie networks (i.e. copyright owners), many of which are opposed to the use of proxy tools on the grounds of alleged piracy. This restriction has not only been problematic for people outside of the US and Japan, but also for those using VPNs within these countries, as well as for those subscribers who want to access Hulu while on vacation. Many believe that the ban has been counterproductive for business, since users of VPNs still have to pay for subscription, though at the time of writing geo-restrictions still stand.

Despite Hulu’s perseverance, there are still ways around the ban. Many VPN providers, such as PureVPN have encouraged people to use their dedicated IPs, which cannot be detected by Hulu since no other user can register for that IP, making the address less likely to be identified as that belonging to an anonymiser; while many other smaller VPN providers are yet to be blocked.

VPN or Smart DNS?

While a VPN encrypts all of your internet traffic, which ensures a private and secure online experience, Smart DNS offers no protection of this kind, and is better suited for unblocking geo-restriction alone. However, Smart DNS does not affect your bandwidth whereas some VPNs may result in around a 10% reduction in speed. If you’re just after streaming then Smart DNS is best, but VPN will protect you against all manner of privacy attacks.

VPN and Smart DNS providers

Logo Name Links Monthly Price
OverPlay OverPlay Read Review
Visit Provider
$4.95
ibVPN ibVPN Read Review
Visit Provider
$4.95
PureVPN PureVPN Read Review
Visit Provider
$9.95
CactusVPN CactusVPN Read Review
Visit Provider
$4.99
HideIpVPN HideIpVPN Read Review
Visit Provider
$4.95
Unblock US Unblock-US Read Review
Visit Provider
$4.99

1. OverPlay (VPN and Smart DNS)

OverPlay Netflix

OverPlay is, first and foremost, a Smart DNS provider with channels in 22 countries, but it also offers a VPN service with servers spread across five continents. Smart DNS also includes the OverPlay client for use specifically on iOS devices. The VPN service offers the following encryption protocols: PPTP, L2TP/IPSec, and OpenVPN.

OverPlay also have some attractive features not offered by other providers, including JetSwitch, for overcoming restricted channels through the client dashboard, which is good for unblocking geo-restrictions.

Pros:

  • Cheap at $4.95 per month
  • Smart DNS client for iOS
  • 14-day money-back guarantee
  • Wide VPN server range

Cons:

  • Bitcoin not accepted

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2. ibVPN (VPN and Smart DNS)

ibVPN home

ibVPN offers Smart DNS (labelled as ibDNS) and VPN depending on whether you’re interested in just streaming or protecting your privacy as well. At the time of writing, it runs 95 plus VPN servers in 39 countries, while its Smart DNS unblocks over 250 TV and music services.

Through the ibVPN Windows/iOS app, subscribers can easily toggle between levels of security as well as between the following encryption protocols: PPTP, L2TP, OpenVPN, and SSTP.

Like most other providers mentioned here, there are no restrictions on bandwidth and usage and traffic logs are not collected.

Pros:

  • Lifts restrictions on 200 channels
  • Very cheap at $4.95 per month
  • Romania-based (beneficial for privacy)
  • Bitcoin accepted
  • Free trial available
  • 15-day money-back guarantee

Cons:

  • Just one connection allowed per account

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3. PureVPN (VPN provider with Smart DNS add-on)

PureVPN

PureVPN is a large VPN provider with over 500 servers in 121 countries. Its VPN service is their flagship feature with Smart DNS as an add-on. For the VPN, the following protocols are used: PPTP, L2TP/IPsec, SSTP, OpenVPN, and IKEv2. PureVPN can be used on a wide variety of platforms, including Android, Windows, OS X, iOS, and Linux. One major benefit of the VPN service is that subscribers can connect simultaneously on up to five devices.

Its website includes lots of tutorials, showing users how to set up VPNs and Smart DNS, and how to change settings on the PureVPN client. Aside from the basic configuration, there are numerous additional features such as Split Tunneling, an Internet Kill Switch if your connection falters, Dedicated IPs (NAT included), DDoS Attack Protection, Automatic Protocol Selection, and the option of a stealth VPN browser.

Pros:

  • 220 channels plus
  • Integrated Smart DNS with Windows VPN app
  • Up to 5 simultaneous device connections per account
  • Based in Hong Kong (beneficial for privacy)

Cons:

  • VPN account needed to use Smart DNS add-on

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4. CactusVPN (Smart DNS and/or VPN)

CactusVPN

CactusVPN is smaller compared to most other providers but it has a strong reputation as both VPN and Smart DNS provider. Currently, there are servers in just four countries (USA, UK, Netherlands, and Romania). Through CactusVPN, subscribers can access over 130 other geo-restricted websites, including numerous online TV and radio streams.

The VPN service offers the following protocols: PPTP, L2TP, OpenVPN, and SSTP. The Mac/Windows app is easy-to-use and a good idea for users who often change their VPN settings. Also, unlike most other provider clients, the Cactus app remains as a hidden icon while inactive.

Pros:

  • Cheap at $4.99 a month
  • Unblocks 130 plus channels
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Free trial available

Cons:

  • No payments through Bitcoin
  • Only servers in four countries

Visit Provider


5. HideIpVPN (VPN and/or Smart DNS)

HideIpVPN homepage screenshot

HideIpVPN offers both a VPN service for encrypting data and Smart DNS just for streaming. Like CactusVPN, it only has servers in a handful of countries; currently in the UK, the US, the Netherlands, Germany, and Canada, with eight servers in each.

Its VPN service uses the following encryption protocols: STTP, OpenVPN, SoftEther, PPTP, and L2TP/IPSec. There are no restrictions on bandwidth and no traffic logs are collected. 24/7 support is available.

As well as its subscribed services, HideIpVPN offers a free trial both for VPN and Smart DNS. The trial is available to the US, the UK and the Netherlands, but speeds will be slower and encryption will be less reliable than subscription (for the trial, all P2P and BitTorrent use is restricted to Dutch and German servers).

Pros:

  • Cheap at $4.95 per month
  • 140 plus channels
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Up to 3 simultaneous connections per account
  • Headquarters in Romania (beneficial for privacy)

Cons:

  • Servers only in five countries

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6. Unblock-Us (Smart DNS)

Unblock-US

Unblock-Us specializes in Smart DNS for allowing users to bypass geo-restrictions and to access a plethora of blocked channels. Channels include Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and numerous others, and are listed on the Unblock-Us website; categorized as video on-demand, sports channels, music, and children’s entertainment. For sports fans, Unblock-US list popular upcoming sporting events on their website.

Aside from Smart DNS, Unblock-Us offer a VPN service (called Smart VPN), which protects user data by encrypting both incoming and outgoing traffic. After talking to one of the Unblock-Us employees, however, it’s clear that their VPN service is still under construction.

Pros:

  • A dedicated Smart DNS provider
  • Cheap at $4.99 a month
  • One-week trial on offer
  • Based in Canada (beneficial for privacy)

Cons:

  • Does not accept Bitcoin
  • VPN service still under development

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Glancing back at the curve.

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