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


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.

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

But things change fast in the world of live TV streaming services. After the latest price hikes Hulu costs the same as YouTube TV, which we like better overall for its superior cloud DVR and slightly better channel count. That said, if you have a Roku you may find that Hulu suits you better — YouTube TV’s app is currently unavailable to new users on the platform (though there is a workaround). 

While Hulu Plus Live TV still loses to YouTube TV ($65 at YouTube TV) as the best service for the money, Hulu remains a solid second-place choice for most viewers, and superior to Fubo TV and AT&T TV. Hulu Live is an excellent premium cord-cutter choice, especially if you like having “regular Hulu” built in for the same price. If you want to save even more 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 70 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 ($180 at Crutchfield), Fire TV, Roku and Smart TV systems. 

Hulu’s channel count is solid but has a handful fewer major cable channels than YouTube TV. While Hulu added a bunch of Viacom channels recently, including MTV and Comedy Central, the service is still missing popular channels AMC and BBC America, which every one of Hulu’s competitors offer. It’s also missing PBS local stations as well as MLB Network and NBA TV, all of which are available on YouTube TV — although unlike YouTube TV, Hulu has the History channel, Lifetime and A&E. 

In late 2020, just like YouTube TV, Hulu dropped many regional sports networks, which was a further blow for sports fans. Now if you want NBA or MLB regular season games, your best bet is AT&T TV’s $85 plan. Check the channel lineup at the end of the article, or our baseball and basketball-specific guides below, to see if the Hulu Plus Live TV’s mix is right for you.

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

Read more: MLB streaming 2021: Watch your favorite team live every day 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

78

60

70

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 a month)

Yes (50 hours, 200 hours plus commercial skip for $10 a 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

But it’s not all good news. Recording to the Hulu DVR is a little bit of a pain, for example, as 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

Hulu with Live TV ($65)

YouTube TV ($65)

Fubo TV ($65)

AT&T TV ($70)

Sling Blue ($35)

Total channels:

70

78

65

60

38

ABC

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

CBS

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Fox

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

NBC

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

PBS

No

Yes

No

No

No

CW

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

MyNetworkTV

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

No

Channel

Hulu with Live TV ($65)

YouTube TV ($65)

Fubo TV ($65)

AT&T TV ($70)

Sling Blue ($35)

A&E

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

ACC Network

Yes

Yes

$

$

No

AMC

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Animal Planet

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

BBC America

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

BBC World News

No

Yes

$

$

$

BET

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Big Ten Network

Yes

Yes

Yes

$

$

Bloomberg TV

Yes

No

No

Yes

Yes

Boomerang

Yes

No

No

Yes

$

Bravo

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Channel

Hulu with Live TV ($65)

YouTube TV ($65)

Fubo TV ($65)

AT&T TV ($70)

Sling Blue ($35)

Cartoon Network

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

CBS Sports Network

Yes

Yes

Yes

$

No

Cheddar

Yes

Yes

Yes

$

Yes

Cinemax

$

$

No

$

No

CMT

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

$

CNBC

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

$

CNN

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Comedy Central

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Cooking Channel

$

No

$

$

$

Destination America

$

No

$

$

$

Discovery Channel

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Disney Channel

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Disney Junior

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Disney XD

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

DIY

$

No

$

$

$

E!

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

EPIX

No

$

$

$

$

ESPN

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

ESPN 2

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

ESPNEWS

Yes

Yes

$

$

No

ESPNU

Yes

Yes

$

$

No

Channel

Hulu with Live TV ($65)

YouTube TV ($65)

Fubo TV ($65)

AT&T TV ($70)

Sling Blue ($35)

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

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

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

No

No

Yes

Yes

$

HBO/HBO Max

$

$

No

$

No

HGTV

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

History

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

HLN

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

IFC

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Investigation Discovery

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Lifetime

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Lifetime Movie Network

Yes

No

Yes

$

$

Channel

Hulu with Live TV ($65)

YouTube TV ($65)

Fubo TV ($65)

AT&T TV ($70)

Sling Blue ($35)

MLB Network

No

Yes

$

$

$

Motor Trend

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

MSNBC

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

MTV

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

$

MTV2

No

Yes

$

Yes

$

National Geographic

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Nat Geo Wild

Yes

Yes

$

$

$

NBA TV

No

Yes

$

$

$

NBC Sports Network

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Newsy

No

Yes

$

No

Yes

NFL Network

No

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

NFL Red Zone

No

$

$

No

$

NHL Network

No

No

$

$

$

Nickelodeon

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Nick Jr.

Yes

Yes

Yes

$

Yes

Nicktoons

No

Yes

$

$

$

OWN

No

Yes

Yes

$

No

Oxygen

Yes

Yes

Yes

$

$

Paramount Network

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

$

Channel

Hulu with Live TV ($65)

YouTube TV ($65)

Fubo TV ($65)

AT&T TV ($70)

Sling Blue ($35)

Science

$

No

$

$

$

SEC Network

Yes

Yes

$

$

No

Showtime

$

$

$

$

$

Smithsonian

Yes

Yes

Yes

$

No

Starz

$

$

$

$

$

Sundance TV

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

$

Syfy

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Tastemade

No

Yes

Yes

$

$

TBS

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

TCM

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

$

Telemundo

Yes

Yes

Yes

$

No

Tennis Channel

No

No

$

$

$

TLC

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

TNT

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Travel Channel

Yes

Yes

Yes

$

Yes

TruTV

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

TV Land

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

$

USA Network

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

VH1

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

$

Vice

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Weather Channel

No

No

Yes

No

No

WE tv

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

$

Channel

Hulu with Live TV ($65)

YouTube TV ($65)

Fubo TV ($65)

AT&T TV ($70)

Sling Blue ($35)



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