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Hulu is one of our favorite streaming services, and with good reason: it offers an unbeatable combo of on-demand and live TV content. But, like all live TV streaming services, the Hulu + Live TV bundle comes with some restrictions. Hulu uses your “home location” to determine what you can watch — and what you can’t. Is there a way around Hulu’s home location? How can you change your Hulu location? We'll explain everything below.
First things first: What is a “home location,” anyway?
Hulu's home location is a way of making sure streamers aren't breaking the rules. Hulu has the right to distribute channels to certain viewers, but it can't just sell every channel to any person anywhere in the world. For example, CBS 2 is New York City's local news station. Hulu offers that station to streamers in New York City, but it doesn't offer it to viewers in California — and, if it did, CBS would get upset. The same thing goes for other local networks, as well as regional networks like SNY, NESN, or Fox Sports LA.
You'll get popular national networks like ESPN and AMC no matter where in the country you are. But other channels — like your local news networks and regional sports networks — will only be available in certain areas. To get local content, you'll have to tell Hulu where you live. Once your “home location” is set, you'll be locked into those local channels until you move your home location. Plus, Hulu may stop you from streaming on mobile devices if the service doesn't think you're really where you say you are.
To keep the peace with its corporate partners, Hulu has a system for keeping streamers (mostly) honest. When you set up Hulu + Live TV, you'll be assigned a “home location.” This will probably happen without you even noticing, but you can find your home location in Hulu + Live TV's settings.
Your home location determines which channels you'll get with Hulu + Live TV. It applies to all of your devices, even when you're away from home. For example, if you travel from New York City to Los Angeles, you won't suddenly get LA's local channels. You'll still get your “home location” channels while you're on the go — for a little while, anyway.
Hulu doesn't want streamers to just set their home locations to faraway places, though, so it tries to keep streamers in line with other rules. You have to connect from your home location periodically to keep seeing your local channels. So if you stay somewhere else for 30 days and then try to stream Hulu on your phone, you're likely to see an error. The solution is to use your phone on your home network so that Hulu will recognize your IP address and see that your phone really “lives” there with you. Otherwise, it would be easy for Hulu users to give their login information to friends and family all across the country, and Hulu doesn't want that.
Hulu uses IP addresses to determine your location whenever you use the service. When setting your home location on certain devices, however, you’ll actually be sharing two things with Hulu: your IP address and your GPS location. This makes faking a home location way tougher than it would be if Hulu used IP addresses alone.
We just talked about a couple of the home location rules, but there are a few more to keep in mind. Here are the key details:
This list has some pretty reasonable rules, but it's also easy to see why some people have home location problems. Home location errors are easy to encounter even if you're using Hulu + Live TV in totally reasonable ways. Long vacations, disabled Wi-Fi connections, a cross-country move, and other problems could trigger home location errors for users who are trying their best to follow the rules.
In some cases, fixing these errors is as simple as letting Hulu know that you’ve moved. In other cases, though, you might be stuck within Hulu until you can get home and “check in” your mobile device. Is there any other option? There’s one intriguing possibility to consider: using a VPN. Can you use a VPN to change your Hulu home location?
Hulu allows you to reset your home location multiple times in a year. It also lets you fix home location issues by connecting to an IP address in your home location area. These are things that you can use to fix the problems you're having with Hulu's home location, and they're particularly valuable options when you have a VPN — though there are some important limitations to remember, and we’ll discuss those in a moment.
A VPN, or virtual private network, is a tool that helps you connect to the internet securely and anonymously while appearing to log onto the internet from somewhere else in the world. Having a VPN can be a very useful thing for streamers.
Using a VPN can help you access certain streaming titles that are “region-locked.” It could also help you put a mobile device on an IP that would match your registered home location.
However, resetting your home location while using a VPN is a different story — at least on some devices. We tested the process out ourselves, and we found that it takes more than just a VPN to free up your Hulu home location. Our tests show that, whenever possible, Hulu uses both IP addresses and GPS locations to verify home locations. You can’t set your home location unless you grant Hulu permission to check your location with your device’s “location services” or equivalent feature. And if you do that, your GPS will spill the beans by delivering your real location information, which may or may not match the VPN server you’ve chosen. If Hulu determines that the two don’t match, then it won’t let you change your home location.
In other words, while we’d like to be able to tell you that a VPN makes it easy to get around Hulu’s home location, that just isn’t the case. On many devices, you’ll need to use more than just a VPN to convince Hulu. And devices without GPS options, like Roku, are typically tougher to use with VPNs.
This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get around Hulu’s home location, but it does mean that it’s a tough job best reserved for the tech-savvy.
Changing your Hulu home location while using a VPN isn’t easy. Even the best options for this task are pretty involved, and many of your options have risks that could expose your device and data — or land you in hot water with Hulu. While most streaming services are pretty passive about VPNs, live TV streaming options like Hulu + Live TV clearly take it more seriously.
We also have not tested every one of these options ourselves, and therefore don’t recommend them.
If you use a device with location services to change your Hulu home location, then you’ll need to address both your IP (which your VPN will change) and your GPS location (which your VPN will not change). Your options for changing your GPS coordinates will vary by device and platform. Using developer tools to mess with your coordinates in the Chrome browser — combined with proper VPN use — might give you a shot at success on some devices. On mobile devices, you’ll most likely have to do something more serious; iPhone users, for example, will have to “jailbreak” their iPhones in order to mess with the Location Services feature. Jailbreaking an iPhone is a pretty serious thing to do, and it will void your warranty and come with unpredictable security risks. It’s by no means an unheard-of thing, but it’s not something we recommend to our readers.
Since your home location is first set by the use of a “living room device,” you could try to set it to a specific location from the start by running your streaming device through a VPN. Many streaming devices lack GPS services. Hulu would presumably have to rely on IP addresses alone when dealing with a GPS-less device like a Roku Express. But such devices also tend to be tough to use with VPNs; your best bet in most cases would be to use a router-level application to put your whole home network on a VPN.
If you do get a setup like this working, it would be a good idea to set a static IP address with your VPN so that you can have a consistent home location IP for your router and all of the devices on it. If your VPN makes it look like you’re moving all over the place, it’s going to cause home location issues instead of solving them!
We’ll wrap things up with a repeated word of warning: this sort of thing can violate the Hulu terms of service. Even if you're using a VPN while on vacation to fix a problem with your home location — “faking” your real-life home location that Hulu approves of — you could still run afoul of Hulu's terms. The good news is that Hulu and other streaming services tend not to try to punish VPN users, so you’re unlikely to suffer serious consequences for giving this a shot. The bad news is that services like this do tend to try to limit VPN use by simply not serving VPN users. If you use a VPN that Hulu recognizes, you probably won't get in trouble, but you may not be able to stream or change your home location. And, again, a VPN alone is often not enough to change your access to Hulu’s live TV portion.
To be able to use a VPN with Hulu at all, you'll have to use a VPN Hulu can't spot. And this is quite difficult because Hulu is unusually good at figuring out when users are using VPNs.
Simple VPN blockers just blacklist (ban) certain IP addresses that are known to be used by VPNs. Bypassing these blockers is as simple as trying different VPN servers until you find one that hasn’t been detected and blocked. But advanced VPN blockers can use other techniques to figure out that you’re using a VPN even if your IP address looks clean, and Hulu’s blocks appear to be on that level.
If your VPN of choice has a setting that makes it harder to detect (often called “obfuscation”), you may want to enable that setting. Messing with the DNS settings can help hide your VPN use, too — but we don’t recommend tweaking advanced settings like those unless you’re a serious VPN wizard.
So which VPNs work best with Hulu? We have a few we recommend, but only one holds the top spot as the best VPN for Hulu. Check our best VPN page for our latest picks, or drop your own recommendation in the comment section.
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