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.

LikeSolid mix of channels for the moneyFull access to Hulu’s on-demand content

Don’t LikeDVR 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. 

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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 on via Hulu’s standard app on all the major platforms including computer browsers, iOS, Xbox One, PS4, Android, Apple TV ($179 at Apple), Fire TV, Roku and Smart TV systems. 

Hulu’s channel count is solid but has a handful fewer major cable channels than 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?
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.  

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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