Hulu Plus Live TV review: Excellent catalog but limited DVR, channels for the price

Victory is fleeting in the fast-changing world of live TV streaming services. Hulu Plus Live TV spent a couple of months in 2020 as CNET’s most recommended premium service, but that brief reign ended when the company raised its prices to $65 per month. That price is the same as YouTube TV, which we like better overall for its superior cloud DVR and channel count. Hulu Live is still an excellent premium cord-cutter choice, however, especially if you like having “regular Hulu” built in for the same price.

LikeSolid mix of channelsFull access to Hulu’s on-demand contentFun interface and zippy guide

Don’t LikeWorse live channel selection than YouTube TVDVR is quite limited without the $10 upgrade

At $6 a month, basic Hulu is one of the best deals in streaming, with gobs of current and past TV shows and movies. The hefty upgrade to Hulu Plus Live TV buys a healthy mix of live sports, news and local channels. That combination of live channels with Hulu’s deep on-demand catalog of network TV shows and original programming is something no other live TV service can match.

Things will inevitably change — they always do — but at the moment YouTube TV ($65 at YouTube TV) is the best service for the money while Hulu remains a solid second place choice for most viewers. If you want to save money though, you should opt for Sling TV Blue ($35).

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What do you get?

Hulu Plus Live TV expands upon the on-demand service with more than 60 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, iOS, Xbox One, PS4, Android, Apple TV ($179 at Adorama), Fire TV ($34 at Amazon), Roku and Smart TV systems. 

Hulu’s channel count is solid but has a handful fewer major cable channels than YouTube TV and FuboTV. Important channels missing from Hulu include AMC, BBC America, MTV and Comedy Central, and every one of Hulu’s competitors offer these. Also, in late 2020 Hulu dropped many regional sports networks, which was a further blow for sports fans. Check the channel lineup at the end of the article, to see if the Hulu Plus Live TV’s mix is right for you.

Read more: NBA streaming: Best ways to watch the 2021 basketball season live online without cable

Like its live streaming competitors Hulu has had a number of price increases since it debuted and currently costs $65 a month. On top of this, 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 to 200 hours. But with the DVR add-on, this becomes the most expensive of all of the services at $75.

Premium live TV streaming services compared

Premium services

YouTube TV

AT&T TV

Hulu Plus Live TV

FuboTV

Base price

$65/month

$70/month

$65/month

$60/month

Total number of top 100 channels

75

61

62

65

ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC channels

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Record shows for later (cloud DVR)

Yes (keep for 9 months)

Yes (20 hours, unlimited hours for $10/month)

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

20 

2 ($10 option for unlimited)

2 ($6 option for 3)

Many people see commercial skipping as a must-have for any DVR. 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 save yourself some money and get YouTube TV.

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?
Ty Pendlebury/CNET

Hulu has been tweaking the live TV interface since it launched, and the most recent changes have been the best. Previously users could only see four and a half shows at a time in a large font with no descriptions, but this has changed 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), TV, Movies, Sports and Hubs (essentially “Channels”). In terms of user-friendliness Hulu Plus Live TV is now in line with its biggest competitor, YouTube TV, but even more friendly on the eye. 

Hulu’s program guide was once one of the least usable in the category, but it’s also now eclipsed that of YouTube TV. The traditional grid offers guide data, which goes 14 days out, and scrolling through pages is zippy, especially on an Apple TV. In comparison, YouTube TV’s guide only displays programs up to eight hours in advance on set-top boxes, and though YT’s web interface offers seven days out, we found it painfully slow to navigate.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Recording to the Hulu 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 first. Once there you need to either long-press the middle button (on Apple or Roku) or press the hamburger button and click record. Every other DVR-available service lets you record while you’re still watching a program. 

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 interface is now a dressing on what was already a lovely window, especially with the zippy 14-day guide.

That said, for the same money YouTube offers a better service overall, and 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 $35 per month.

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

Sling Blue ($35)

Fubo TV ($60)

YouTube TV ($65)

Hulu with Live TV ($65)

AT&T TV ($70)

Total channels:

38

65

75

62

61

ABC

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

CBS

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Fox

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

NBC

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

PBS

No

No

Yes

No

No

CW

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

MyNetworkTV

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Channel

Sling Blue ($35)

Fubo TV ($60)

YouTube TV ($65)

Hulu with Live TV ($65)

AT&T TV ($70)

A&E

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

ACC Network

No

$

Yes

Yes

$

AMC

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Animal Planet

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

BBC America

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

BBC World News

$

$

Yes

No

$

BET

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Big Ten Network

$

Yes

Yes

Yes

$

Bloomberg TV

Yes

No

No

Yes

Yes

Boomerang

$

No

No

Yes

Yes

Bravo

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Channel

Sling Blue ($35)

Fubo TV ($60)

YouTube TV ($65)

Hulu with Live TV ($65)

AT&T TV ($70)

Cartoon Network

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

CBS Sports Network

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

$

Cheddar

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

$

Cinemax

No

No

$

$

$

CMT

$

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

CNBC

$

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

CNN

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Comedy Central

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Cooking Channel

$

$

No

$

$

Destination America

$

$

No

$

$

Discovery Channel

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Disney Channel

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Disney Junior

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Disney XD

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

DIY

$

$

No

$

$

E!

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

EPIX

$

No

$

No

$

ESPN

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

ESPN 2

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

ESPNEWS

No

$

Yes

Yes

$

ESPNU

No

$

Yes

Yes

$

Channel

Sling Blue ($35)

Fubo TV ($60)

YouTube TV ($65)

Hulu with Live TV ($65)

AT&T TV ($70)

Food Network

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Fox Business

$

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Fox News

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Fox Sports 1

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Fox Sports 2

$

Yes

Yes

Yes

$

Freeform

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

FX

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

FX Movies

$

$

Yes

Yes

$

FXX

$

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

FYI

$

Yes

No

Yes

$

Golf Channel

$

Yes

Yes

Yes

$

Hallmark

$

Yes

No

No

Yes

HBO/HBO Max

No

No

$

$

$

HGTV

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

History

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

HLN

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

IFC

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Investigation Discovery

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Lifetime

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Lifetime Movie Network

$

Yes

No

Yes

$

Channel

Sling Blue ($35)

Fubo TV ($60)

YouTube TV ($65)

Hulu with Live TV ($65)

AT&T TV ($70)

MLB Network

$

$

Yes

No

$

Motor Trend

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

MSNBC

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

MTV

$

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

MTV2

$

$

No

No

Yes

National Geographic

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Nat Geo Wild

$

$

Yes

Yes

$

NBA TV

$

$

Yes

No

$

NBC Sports Network

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Newsy

Yes

$

Yes

No

No

NFL Network

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

No

NFL Red Zone

$

$

$

No

No

NHL Network

$

$

No

No

$

Nickelodeon

No

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Nick Jr.

Yes

Yes

No

No

$

Nicktoons

$

$

No

No

$

OWN

No

Yes

Yes

No

$

Oxygen

$

Yes

Yes

Yes

$

Paramount Network

$

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Channel

Sling Blue ($35)

Fubo TV ($60)

YouTube TV ($65)

Hulu with Live TV ($65)

AT&T TV ($70)

Science

$

$

No

$

$

SEC Network

No

$

Yes

Yes

$

Showtime

$

$

$

$

$

Smithsonian

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

$

Starz

$

No

$

$

$

Sundance TV

$

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Syfy

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Tastemade

$

Yes

Yes

No

$

TBS

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

TCM

$

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Telemundo

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Tennis Channel

$

$

No

No

$

TLC

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

TNT

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Travel Channel

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

$

TruTV

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

TV Land

$

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

USA Network

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

VH1

$

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Vice

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Weather Channel

No

Yes

No

No

$

WE tv

$

Yes

Yes

No

Yes


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