What Is Hulu's Problem With Android TV?

Google recently confirmed the number of Android apps that are now compatible with the Android TV platform exceeds 5,000.

A decent number when you consider it was closer to 3,000 a year before. However, that’s not as much of an impressive number when you compare it to the number of apps that could support the platform.

Even more concerning is there's some very big-name apps that are still missing which could be indicative of how irrelevant even big brands now view the platform. Arguably, none more so than Hulu.

Hulu has become a much bigger player in recent times than it was before. This is in particularly true in the live TV streaming market where Hulu is now only second to Sling TV after overtaking AT&T’s DIRECTV NOW.

In spite of this ever-increasing prominence in the live TV streaming sector Hulu has so far outright refused to release an Android TV version of its “Hulu: Stream TV, Movies & more” app - the only way you could tune in to Hulu's live TV service on an Android TV device without having to either cast from the mobile app or sideload the mobile app.

The Android mobile version of the app is currently listed on the Google Play Store with an install rate of over 50,000,000 million. With such demand for the Android app and the likelihood of Android users gravitating to an Android-powered TV solution, you would think a service that’s in its ascendance would make sure the app is available on as many platforms as possible.

Especially as Hulu does already seem to understand the importance of cross-platform support. With support for iOS, Apple TV, Fire TV, and Fire OS (mobile), Apple device owners can watch on mobile devices as well as the TV, while Fire OS users can switch from watching on a Fire tablet to a Fire TV device.

The app also works on Roku OS, Windows 10, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Xbox One and the Nintendo Switch, as well as LG TVs, Samsung TVs, Mac and PC browsers, and it also supports Chromecast. It even works on Amazon’s Echo Show.

You can watch Hulu with Live TV on your Amazon smart display in your kitchen, but you cannot watch it on your TV if the TV is powered by Android TV, or hooked up to an Android TV device.

Based on this lack of Android TV support, it is hardly a stretch to suggest that Hulu has zero interest in the platform. When it comes to live TV specifically, Hulu has never been interested in the Android platform built for TV.

Undoubtedly, some will point to the existence of a Hulu app as evidence that Hulu does have some interest in the platform, and in extreme cases may even use that app as evidence that features like live TV will eventually come to the Android TV app.

Maybe they will and it is a logical conclusion considering the app is the “Hulu for Android TV” app and any company that has released an app with "Android TV" in the name is often considered a supporter of the platform.

But here’s the kicker. That Android TV app, although available, is pretty much a retired app. For example, although the app is listed as also supporting various other big-name TV solutions from Apple TV, LG, Roku, LG, Samsung, Sony, and Vizio. In nearly all of these instances the app is aimed at products from those brands that run on dated software. Operating system versions that have since been replaced or updated.

The one exception to this rule is Android TV. That’s the only current platform version that’s resigned to the same app.

Hulu even officially refers to this version of the app as the “Classic Hulu app.” Compared to the other app which Hulu officially refers to as “The latest Hulu app.”

If you needed any more evidence that the Hulu for Android TV app is non-existent in the minds of Hulu, you only have to look at the update history - more specifically, the lack of updates.

The last time the Hulu for Android TV app received an update was in October, 2017. In a matter of months it will have been two years since the app was updated.

Two years in spite of during that time Hulu rising up the live TV streaming ranks. In fact, two years ago Hulu had only just entered the live TV streaming game. It’s been that long and so much has changed in that time and yet Android TV remains completely off Hulu's radar.

This is in spite of Google apparently having “tens of millions” of Android TV users. A number Google expects to expand greatly on following the 140 pay-TV operators around the world that have now apparently signed up to the platform.

Yet, Hulu doesn’t seem to genuinely care. It has not made any effort to suggest it will launch the latest Hulu app on Android TV, and certainly has not made any effort to keep the classic app updated.

To be clear, this is not just about live TV, although that’s certainly an intriguing element considering Hulu’s aggressive stance within the sector, but it’s also just about the actual standard Hulu experience.

In the last week Hulu announced its subscriber count had risen beyond 28 million (significantly more than its live TV service alone) and all of those customers who access the standard service primarily via Android TV are receiving a lesser product compared to users of almost every other platform.

And that’s not going to change unless the new app is released on the platform. Hulu confirms this in the official definition of the classic app which explains that devices running the app “won’t have access to live TV, select Premium Add-ons and new features.”

So yes, in addition to no access to live TV and premium add-ons, Android TV Hulu users shouldn’t ever expect any “new features” while there device remains tied to the classic app.

There’s honestly no interpretation one can make here other than Hulu either sees zero value in Android TV or flat out dislikes the platform for whatever reason. Worst still, maybe Hulu actually already considers Android TV to be a discontinued platform.

After all, it is treating Android TV the same way it does all other discontinued products and devices.

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About the Author
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John Anon

Editor-in-Chief
John has been writing about and reviewing tech products since 2014 after making the transition from writing about and reviewing airlines. With a background in Psychology, John has a particular interest in the science and future of the industry. Besides adopting the Managing Editor role at AH John also covers much of the news surrounding audio and visual tech, including cord-cutting, the state of Pay-TV, and Android TV. Contact him at [email protected]