Hulu Plus Live TV review: The best value in premium live TV streaming


At $6 a month, basic Hulu is one of the best deals in streaming, with gobs of current and past TV shows and movies. Its Hulu Plus Live TV upgrade may cost a lot more at $55, but that monthly fee buys one of the best live TV streaming services around. Hulu Plus Live TV is currently our favorite service for people looking to quit cable TV yet keep a healthy mix of live sports, news and local channels. And it also includes Hulu’s deep on-demand catalog of network TV shows and original programming, something no other live TV service can match.

Like

  • Solid mix of channels for the money
  • Full access to Hulu’s on-demand content

Don’t Like

  • DVR is quite limited without the $10 upgrade

When YouTube TV ($65 at YouTube TV) jacked its price from $50 to $65, Hulu Plus Live TV instantly became our favorite premium-priced service — especially for those who were initially attracted to YouTube TV as a way to save money. While YouTube TV offers more top channels and a superior DVR, Hulu Plus Live TV is a better value at $10 per month less. 

Update, Oct. 22: Hulu has announced that “starting on Oct. 23, 2020, Hulu will no longer have the rights to distribute certain Regional Sports Networks (RSNs) that are currently included” with the plan.



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What do you get?

Hulu Plus Live TV expands upon the on-demand service with a healthy selection of live channels and throws in both a cloud DVR and program guide guide. Live TV is available via Hulu’s standard app on all the major platforms including computer browsers, iOSXbox OnePS4, Android, Apple TV ($180 at Best Buy)Fire TVRoku and Smart TV systems. 

Hulu’s channel count is solid but has a handful fewer major cable channels than YouTube TV and Fubo TV. Important channels missing from Hulu include AMC, BBC America, MTV and Comedy Central. Check the channel lineup at the end of the article, to see if the Hulu Plus Live TV’s mix is right for you.

Like most other live TV streaming services, Hulu has had a number of price increases since it debuted and currently costs $55 a month. The service’s biggest gotcha is the $10-a-month charge for the Enhanced DVR. Without it, the standard, non-enhanced DVR on Hulu Plus Live TV lacks the ability to fast-forward and rewind through commercials on recorded content. In addition to allowing you to fast-forward through commercials, paying for the upgrade also increases storage from 50 hours to 200 hours.

Premium live TV streaming services compared

Premium services YouTube TV AT&T TV Now Hulu Plus Live TV FuboTV
Base price $65/month $55/month $55/month $60/month
Total number of top 100 channels 75 45 59 68
ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC channels Yes Yes Yes Yes
Record shows for later (cloud DVR) Yes (keep for 9 months) Yes (20GB, keep for 30 days) Yes (50 hours, 200 hours plus commercial skip for $10/month) Yes (30GB, 500GB for $10 a month)
Step-up packages with more channels No Yes Yes Yes
Simultaneous streams per account 3 2 ($5 option for 3) 2 ($10 option for unlimited) 2 ($6 option for 3)

Many users see commercial skipping as a must-have for any DVR. Adding it brings the monthly price of Hulu Plus Live TV up to $65, which is the same price as YouTube TV. And all of the other premium services include cloud DVRs that let you skip commercials as part of their standard functions and the best, YouTube TV, has unlimited storage, too. In short, if you’re a heavy DVR user you might consider the extra $10 per month for YouTube TV worth paying.

Read more: YouTube TV vs. Sling TV vs. Hulu vs. Philo vs. Fubo vs. AT&T TV Now: Live TV channels compared

What’s it like to use?

hulu-livetv-1

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

Hulu has been tweaking the live TV interface since it launched a couple years ago, and the most recent changes are the best. Previously users could only see four-and-a-half shows at a time in a large font with no descriptions, but this is changing to a large marquee and “cover” art for all the remaining shows now grouped by type. On the main TV streaming devices, the top of the interface has a simplified selection featuring Home, Live TV, My Stuff (favorites and DVR recordings) and Browse. In terms of user-friendliness Hulu Plus Live TV now in line with its biggest competitor, YouTube TV. 

Hulu’s program guide was once one of the least usable in the category, but it’s now become even more extensive than YouTube TV’s. The traditional grid offers guide data which is 14 days out and scrolling through pages is zippy, especially on Apple TV. In comparison, YouTube TV’s guide only displays programs up to eight hours in advance.

05-hulu-live-tv

Sarah Tew/CNET

Recording to the DVR is a little bit of a pain — you can only do it from the guide. If you want to record the show you’re currently watching you need to exit to the guide. Once there you need to either long-press the middle button (Apple/Roku) or press the hamburger button and click record. Every other DVR-available service lets you record while you’re still watching it. 

Should you get it?

If you enjoy the mix of channels and don’t need a DVR with commercial skipping, then Live TV could be what you’re looking for. Its biggest trump card is its tight integration with the Hulu service — if you like Hulu, you’ll like Live TV. The recent upgrades are the dressing on what was already a lovely window. Hulu Plus Live TV is now the premium service to get, at least until its own inevitable price bump.

If you don’t need as many channels or streaming locals (ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox), Sling TV Blue offers a much cheaper rate at $30 per month — guaranteed for a year — and that price makes it our favorite live TV streaming service overall (Note that ViacomCBS is the parent company of CNET).

Channel comparison

Below you’ll find a chart that’s a smaller version of this massive channel comparison. It contains the top 100 channels from each service. Some notes:

  • Yes = The channel is available on the cheapest pricing tier.
  • No = The channel isn’t available at all on that service. 
  • $ = The channel is available for an extra fee, either a la carte or as part of a more expensive package or add-on. 
  • Not every channel a service carries is listed, just the “top 100” as determined by CNET’s editors. Minor channels such as AXS TV, CNBC World, Discovery Life, GSN, POP and Universal Kids didn’t make the cut.
  • Regional sports networks — channels devoted to showing regular-season games of particular pro baseball, basketball and hockey teams — are not listed. 

Top 100 channels compared

Channel Hulu with Live TV ($55) AT&T TV Now ($55) FuboTV ($60) YouTube TV ($65)
Total top channels: 59 45 68 75
ABC Yes Yes Yes Yes
CBS Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fox Yes Yes Yes Yes
NBC Yes Yes Yes Yes
PBS No No No Yes
CW Yes Yes Yes Yes
MyNetworkTV Yes Yes Yes Yes
A&E Yes $ Yes No
ACC Network Yes No Yes Yes
AMC No $ Yes Yes
Animal Planet Yes $ Yes Yes
BBC America No $ Yes Yes
BBC World News No $ $ Yes
BET No Yes Yes Yes
Big Ten Network Yes $ Yes Yes
Bloomberg TV No $ No No
Boomerang Yes Yes No No
Bravo Yes Yes Yes Yes
Cartoon Network Yes Yes No Yes
CBS Sports Network Yes $ Yes Yes
Cheddar Yes Yes Yes Yes
Cinemax $ $ No $
CMT No $ Yes Yes
CNBC Yes Yes Yes Yes
CNN Yes Yes No Yes
Comedy Central No Yes Yes Yes
Cooking Channel $ $ $ No
Destination America $ $ $ No
Discovery Channel Yes $ Yes Yes
Disney Channel Yes Yes Yes Yes
Disney Junior Yes Yes Yes Yes
Disney XD Yes Yes Yes Yes
DIY $ $ $ No
E! Yes Yes Yes Yes
EPIX No $ No $
ESPN Yes Yes Yes Yes
ESPN 2 Yes Yes Yes Yes
ESPNEWS Yes $ Yes Yes
ESPNU Yes $ $ Yes
Food Network Yes $ Yes Yes
Fox Business Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fox News Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fox Sports 1 Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fox Sports 2 Yes $ Yes Yes
Freeform Yes Yes Yes Yes
FX Yes Yes Yes Yes
FX Movies Yes Yes $ Yes
FXX Yes Yes Yes Yes
FYI $ $ Yes No
Golf Channel Yes $ Yes Yes
Hallmark No Yes Yes No
HBO $ $ No $
HGTV Yes $ Yes Yes
History Yes $ Yes No
HLN Yes Yes No Yes
IFC No $ Yes Yes
Investigation Discovery Yes $ Yes Yes
Lifetime Yes $ Yes No
Lifetime Movie Network $ $ Yes No
MLB Network No $ No Yes
Motor Trend Yes $ Yes Yes
MSNBC Yes Yes Yes Yes
MTV No Yes Yes Yes
MTV2 No $ $ No
National Geographic Yes Yes Yes Yes
Nat Geo Wild Yes Yes $ Yes
NBA TV No $ $ Yes
NBC Sports Network Yes Yes Yes Yes
Newsy No No $ Yes
NFL Network No No Yes No
NFL Red Zone No No $ No
NHL Network No $ $ No
Nickelodeon No Yes Yes Yes
Nick Jr. No Yes Yes No
Nicktoons No $ $ No
OWN No $ Yes Yes
Oxygen Yes Yes Yes Yes
Paramount Network No $ Yes Yes
Science $ $ $ No
SEC Network Yes $ $ Yes
Showtime $ $ $ $
Smithsonian Yes No Yes Yes
Starz $ $ No $
Sundance TV No $ Yes Yes
Syfy Yes Yes Yes Yes
Tastemade No $ Yes Yes
TBS Yes Yes No Yes
TCM Yes Yes No Yes
Telemundo Yes Yes Yes Yes
Tennis Channel No $ $ Yes
TLC Yes $ Yes Yes
TNT Yes Yes No Yes
Travel Channel Yes $ Yes Yes
TruTV Yes Yes No Yes
TV Land No $ Yes Yes
USA Network Yes Yes Yes Yes
VH1 No Yes Yes Yes
Viceland Yes $ Yes No
Weather Channel No $ Yes No
WE tv No $ Yes Yes



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