Everything you need to know about Hulu + Live TV

Joe Supan
JS
Joe Supan
Sep 13, 2019
ProsConsVerdict
✔ Best-in-class channel lineup ✔ Cheaper than comparable streaming services ✔ Includes Hulu On Demand✘ Poor user experience ✘ Only two simultaneous streamsWith plenty of news, sports and family channels, Hulu + Live TV provides the best channel lineup of any live TV streaming service.

Hulu + Live TV review summary:

  • Only one plan available for $45/mo.
  • Includes Hulu’s on-demand service with ads, but can upgrade to ad-free for $51/mo.
  • Best channel lineup of any live TV streaming service
  • 50 hours of cloud DVR storage
  • Two simultaneous streams

What channels do you get with Hulu + Live TV?

Hulu currently has the most well-rounded and comprehensive channel selection of any live TV streaming service. Whether you’re looking for sports, news or TV for the whole family, chances are Hulu has everything you need. It has 69 channels in total — fewer than YouTube TV’s 86 and fubo’s 99 — but Hulu is refreshingly free of the filler that pads most service’s numbers.

Here are some of the most popular channels included in Hulu + Live TV:

LocalsABC CBS Fox NBC The CW
SportsESPN ESPN2 ESPNews ESPNU ESPN College Extra ESPN Bases Loaded ESPN Goal Line FS1 FS2CBS Sports NBC Sports ACC Network Big Ten Network SEC Network Golf Channel Motortrend
ComedyTBS Cartoon Network FXX Boomerang
DramaFX TNT Lifetime USA TCM SyFy
NewsCNN Fox News MSNBC CNBC Fox Business HLN
FamilyDisney Channel Freeform Disney Jr. Universal Kids
EducationalDiscovery Channel History Animal Planet National Geographic
Reality TVA&E Food Network TLC HGTV Bravo E! Travel Channel We TV
True CrimeTruTV Investigation Discovery Oxygen

For a complete listing of the channels available in your area, enter your ZIP code on Hulu’s home page.

What channels is Hulu + Live TV missing?

Even though we think Hulu has the best all-around lineup of any service, it’s still missing some big names. Here are some of the most popular channels that aren’t available in Hulu’s base plan or any of its add-ons:

  • AMC
  • BBC America
  • BET
  • Cinemax
  • CMT
  • Comedy Central
  • Hallmark Channel
  • IFC
  • ION
  • MLB Network
  • MTV
  • Music Choice
  • NBA TV
  • NFL Network
  • NHL Network
  • Nick
  • Nick Jr.
  • OWN
  • Paramount Network (formerly Spike)
  • PBS
  • Science
  • Sundance TV
  • TeenNick
  • The Weather Channel
  • TV Land
  • VH1

If any of these are must-haves for you, PlayStation Vue, YouTube TV and fubo might be better options, although they each offer their own drawbacks, too.

How does Hulu + Live TV compare to other live TV streaming services?

There are two classes of live TV streaming services: “skinny bundles” like Philo ($20/mo.) and more comprehensive cable replacements like Hulu. Of the latter category, there are six main players, and the differences between them are relatively minor.

Which service is best for you generally comes down to a few key preferences. Do you want to pay a little more for the NFL Network or are you fine with missing some football games? Do you need local channels or can you get by with a TV antenna or Locast? AMC or A&E?

We utilized TiVo’s recent survey of 3,330 adults in order to evaluate each service on a level playing field. Respondents were asked, “Which channels would you be interested in including in your TV package?” The more people wanted a channel included, the higher it ranked.

Here’s how many channels from TiVo’s survey each streaming service includes:

As you can see, there isn’t a ton of separation (aside from AT&T TV NOW being solidly last). Hulu’s closest competitors are Sling Orange + Blue and fubo. We ultimately gave the edge to Hulu, as it’s the only service of those three to include the number one most desired channel according to TiVo’s survey: ABC.

Again, these services share about 90% of the same channels, so a lot comes down to a few personal preferences. Here are some of the key channel differences between streaming services:

Hulu + Live TVPlayStation VueYouTube TVSling Orange + BlueAT&T TV NOWfuboTV
Fox NBC FX TNT TBS USA SyFy Cartoon Network CNN Nat Geo
ABC
CBS
Discovery Food Network TLC HGTV
HBO
A&E History Lifetime
AMC
ESPN Disney Channel Freeform
Comedy Central
Animal Planet

Plenty of add-ons available

Hulu also offers a number of add-ons to its live TV service that allow you to customize your package to your liking. And because Hulu starts at a lower price than most services, you might still have some room in your budget to use them.

  • HBO ($15/mo.)
  • Cinemax ($10/mo.)
  • SHOWTIME ($11/mo.)
  • STARZ ($9/mo.)

These are all premium networks that you can add to your Hulu plan. Unfortunately, most of them aren’t discounted — you’ll pay the same here as you would if you subscribed to HBO Now or SHOWTIME directly. (Cinemax is $5 cheaper than subscribing through PlayStation Vue, but the same as Prime Video.)

In addition to these premium networks, Hulu also offers a couple of channel bundles for anyone looking to expand their lineups:

  • Entertainment Add-on ($8/mo.): American Heroes Channel, CNBC World, Cooking Channel, Destination America, Discovery Family, Discovery Life, DIY Network, FYI, Lifetime Movies, Science
  • Español Add-on ($5/mo.): CNN en Español, Discovery en Español, Discovery Familia, ESPN Deportes, History en Español, NBC Universo

How does Hulu + Live TV fare for sports fans?

Hulu + Live TV is a middle of the road option for sports fans. If you don’t need to catch every game from every league, it will probably do just fine. But if you’re a diehard fan of a specific sport or team, you might find it lacking. Our Hulu + Live TV review focused on two types of live games: nationally televised and local teams.

National games

Hulu has most of the channels that air nationally televised games from the major American sports, but it is missing the league-specific channels from the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL. These are generally second-tier marquee games. For instance, you’ll miss five Thursday Night Football games in 2019 — probably not essential for most people, but it could be a dealbreaker if your team happens to be playing in one of them.

Hulu does have excellent college football and basketball coverage — the only conference channel it’s missing is the PAC-12 Network. If you need that channel, the only streaming services that carry it are Sling TV and fuboTV.

LeagueWhat it hasWhat it’s missing
NFLESPN, Fox, NBC, CBS,NFL Network
MLBESPN, ESPN2, Fox, FS1, TBSMLB Network
NBAABC, ESPN, TNTNBA TV
NHLNBC, NBC Sports, USA, CNBCNHL Network
NCAA sportsESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, Fox, ABC, CBS, ACC Network, Big Ten Network, SEC NetworkPac-12 Network

Regional sports networks

While the national games are key for following each sport as a whole, most fans also want to keep up with their local teams. Regional sports networks (RSNs) carry every game from your local MLB, NBA and NHL teams.

Hulu + Live TV excels here, carrying both Fox Sports and NBC Sports RSNs, which cover about 75% of local teams. Running your ZIP code through Hulu’s ZIP check will tell you for sure if your RSN is included, but chances are good you’ll be covered.

The major teams it’s missing are from New York, Los Angeles and Boston.

New YorkLos AngelesBoston
Hulu covers:New York Yankees New York Mets Brooklyn NetsAnaheim Ducks L.A. Angels L.A. Clippers L.A. KingsBoston Celtics
Hulu is missing:New York Knicks New York Rangers New York Islanders New Jersey DevilsL.A. Lakers L.A. DodgersBoston Red Sox Boston Bruins

Will Hulu + Live TV actually save you money?

At $45/mo., Hulu + Live TV isn’t significantly cheaper than most cable and satellite packages. That’s because you typically get a hefty discount for bundling TV and internet services. Here’s how a few common packages compare to Hulu:

Hulu + Live TVSling OrangeXFINITY (Starter Pro Double Play)Spectrum (TV Select + Internet)AT&T Internet + DIRECTV
Monthly TV + internet cost$45 (TV) + $60* (internet)$25 (TV) + $60* (internet)$90$90$75 year one, $121 year two
Installation feeNoneNoneUp to $60Up to $200Up to $99
Equipment rental feeNoneNone$13/mo.$5/mo.None
Contract lengthOne monthOne monthOne yearOne yearTwo years
Estimated year one costs$1,260$1,020$1,296$1,340$999 ($1,452 year two)
Number of channels6933140+125+155+

That said, you don’t need to rent equipment to use live streaming services, and you aren’t locked into long contracts that leave you vulnerable to random price hikes. The savings might be negligible — or even nonexistent — but you’ll probably have a better experience with Hulu than a traditional cable or satellite company.

According to the most recent American Customer Satisfaction Index, streaming services as an industry received a 76/100 score, on par with hotels and internet search engines. Cable and satellite, meanwhile, came in dead last with a 62/100.

What about the user experience?

As good as Hulu + Live TV’s channel lineup is, it’s interface and navigation were some of the worst we tested. We spent about a week using it on a Fire TV Stick and Roku Streaming Stick, and in both cases, it left a lot to be desired.

It’s cumbersome to even get to the live TV part of the Hulu app. When you click the “TV” section, for example, it takes you to Hulu’s on-demand library. There is a “Live TV” section you can navigate to, but that live TV guide is pretty disappointing, too.

You can only see about four channels at once, and only the program that’s currently playing. If you want to see what’s coming up next, you have to click the channel and arrow over. And even then, you can’t see anything beyond the next immediate slot.

It also doesn’t make channel-surfing very pleasurable. While most services keep a box with your current channel open in the corner, Hulu blocks about half the screen, so you can’t really see what’s currently playing.

Mobile app

We enjoyed the experience of using Hulu’s mobile app much more than on streaming devices. The guide still only showed one time slot at a time, but it was much easier to arrow over to see what’s coming up next. We also liked how the current channel continues playing while you browse.

Hulu’s mobile app has received overwhelmingly positive reviews, too — it has a 4.7 rating on over a million reviews on the App Store, and 4.1 on 365K from Google Play.

Are there any extra perks?

Hulu’s extra perks fall somewhere in the middle of the pack of live TV streaming services.

It offers 50 hours of cloud DVR storage — less than PlayStation Vue and YouTube TV’s unlimited — but it has no expiration date. If that’s not enough, you can upgrade to 200 hours for an extra $10/mo.

Hulu’s two simultaneous streams — the number of devices you can watch at the same time — are on the low side, too. If you live in a house with diverse TV tastes, Hulu lets you upgrade to unlimited screens for $10/mo. Keep in mind, that only applies to devices in the same home.

Hulu + Live TVPlayStation VueYouTube TVSling Orange + BlueAT&T TV NOWfuboTV
DVR storage50 hoursUnlimited (stores for 28 days)Unlimited (stores for nine months)50 hours ($5 extra)20 hours (stores for 30 days)30 hours
Simultaneous streamsTwoFiveThreeFourTwoTwo

Hulu + Live TV FAQs

Which streaming devices work with Hulu + Live TV?

Along with Sling TV, Hulu + Live TV has the broadest device compatibility of any streaming service around. With the exception of PlayStation, it works with just about every streaming device, smart TV and gaming console:

  • Apple TV
  • Roku
  • Amazon Fire TV
  • Google Chromecast
  • Xbox One and 360
  • Nintendo Switch
  • Samsung smart TVs
  • LG smart TVs
  • Android TVs

What internet speed do I need for Hulu + Live TV?

Hulu recommends at least 8 Mbps for live TV, but if you plan on watching 4K content, that number goes all the way up to 16 Mbps. You’ll also need to increase that number for every device that’s using the connection at the same time. Not sure what kinds of speed you’re currently getting? Use our speed test below to find out.

Can you fast forward through commercials on Hulu + Live TV?

Unfortunately, you can’t fast forward through commercials on Hulu + Live TV, or any live TV streaming service. But unlike other services, you can’t fast forward through ads on programs you’ve recorded in your DVR. To do that, you’ll need to add Hulu’s Enhanced Cloud DVR option for an extra $10/mo.

So, what’s the bottom line?

Our Hulu + Live TV review places the streaming service at the top where it really matters: the channels included in its plan. It has nine of the top 10 consumers want most. The only other service that could match that number was PlayStation Vue’s $85/mo. Elite plan.

Included in Hulu’s lineup are about 20 channels devoted entirely to sports. You might miss a handful of games here and there, but for the most part, it’s a great option for sports fans.

Where Hulu + Live TV falls short is its user experience and, to a lesser extent, the extra perks it provides. If things like a positive channel-surfing design, plenty of DVR storage and simultaneous streams are important to you, we’d go with YouTube TV.

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