Cable cord cutters have had it pretty good for a while now, with a slew of high-quality free TV streaming services hitting the market. But those free services have nothing on the paid live TV streaming services, especially ones with a pedigree like Hulu + Live TV.
Hulu subscribers may already be familiar with Hulu + Live TV, but if you’re unfamiliar, this guide will help you better understand the add-on service. Whether you’re considering cutting the cord or are thinking about a Hulu subscription, Hulu + Live TV is a budget-friendly way to access a huge library of on-demand content as well as many live channels that were formerly reserved for cable.
What is Hulu + Live TV?
It might not have the catchiest name, but Hulu + Live TV deserves recognition for describing exactly what it is: It’s regular Hulu with live TV streaming added in. This isn’t a separate product from the standard Hulu on-demand offering — it’s the same thing, just with added features. This makes it different from any other live TV streaming service.
While services like AT&T’s DirecTV Stream offer a cable-like experience online, Hulu + Live TV aims to strike a balance between traditional cable/satellite and what we’ve come to expect from on-demand streaming services. That might make it more appealing to those who have grown up with Netflix and Hulu, but that also means it could be more alienating to those who grew up when “channel surfing” was the norm.
While Hulu + Live TV gives you access to live TV channels, the streaming quality is often not as good as cable and may suffer from slower internet speeds or during high-traffic periods.
You can find the full Hulu + Live TV compatibility list on Hulu’s website. As you might expect, it’s available on the most popular streaming devices, including both Android and iOS devices, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Fire tablets, Google’s Chromecast devices, Android TV, Google TV, Mac, and PC browsers, select LG and Samsung smart TV platforms, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and more.
Hulu + Live TV is also supported on the web using Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Microsoft Edge, as well as iOS and Android devices, including Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets. Finally, it is supported on select smart TVs, including recent models from LG, Samsung, and Vizio. During our testing for this article, we used Hulu + Live TV across a smattering of various devices, including an Amazon Fire TV, a fourth-generation Apple TV, and both iOS and Android-powered phones.
First and foremost, Hulu + Live TV stands out because it gives subscribers full access to Hulu’s full on-demand streaming library and Hulu original content, essentially coupling a basic Hulu subscription (normally $7 per month) with live TV. Not only do you get a wide array of channels, but you also get one of the best on-demand streaming services on the market.
Plus, like most live TV streaming services, Hulu + Live TV comes with a cloud DVR. On the plus side, it features up to 50 hours of storage and no limit to how long you can store recordings — unlike many rival streaming services. On the downside, you’ll need to pay extra if you want all of its features.
Hulu + Live TV is similarly structured when it comes to how many screens you can watch at once. With the basic offering, you’re limited to just two screens. If you pay $15 per month for the Unlimited Screens offering, you get exactly what it says, letting you pass the service around.
Hulu’s curation and guide are also worth mentioning since they give subscribers greater organizational capabilities than other services or cable. By adding programs to a favorites tab or removing items from their watch history, subscribers can control content suggestions to get better recommendations of what to watch.
Channels and pricing
Hulu + Live TV offers a few different subscription plans. The Basic plan gives subscribers access to more than 75 channels and Hulu’s ad-supported, on-demand movie and TV library for $65 per month. (That price goes up to $70 a month starting December 21.) Add-on channels and features range from $9 to $15 each per month. If you don’t want ads, you can upgrade to Hulu Premium + Live TV for $71 per month. You can also get only Live TV (without Hulu’s on-demand library) for $64 per month.
The channel offerings, fortunately, don’t vary between payment plans. Each plan gives you access to ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox, plus dozens of other popular channels, which Hulu lists in full on its website. You’ll also get some local channels based on your location. Premium channels like HBO ($15 per month), Showtime ($11), Starz ($9), and Cinemax ($10) can be added for an additional fee.
Hulu + Live TV also stands out when it comes to sports, with 12 dedicated channels including ESPN, CSN, and Fox Sports 1, as well as the capability for users to follow their favorite NFL, NCAA, NBA, MLS, MLB, and NHL teams and record their games when available. You can also use your Hulu + Live TV login information to sign in to the ESPN app for live ESPN coverage via ESPN Plus.
You can bundle Disney+ with an ad-supported Hulu account and an ESPN+ account for just $13 per month. However, this offer does not officially extend to the full ad-free level of Hulu or Hulu + Live TV. Still, if you decide to go with Hulu + Live TV for your live TV needs, you’ll be able to add a Disney+ subscription and watch all of that content (live TV, Hulu on-demand, Disney+) within your Hulu app — plus there’s a clever trick that will still save you some money.
Initially, the interface for Hulu + Live TV depended on Hulu’s guide screen, but as that proved frustrating for some users, Hulu has since added a second way to navigate. Known as the Live Guide, it’s a dedicated view just for Hulu + Live TV subscribers, which more closely resembles the traditional on-screen guides used by most linear TV services, whether delivered over the internet or not.
In addition to the lineup showing you all channels, you can filter by categories like news or movies, making browsing through what’s currently airing fairly easy. The guide also features a Recent Channels section, which can double as a “favorites” lineup if you only find yourself watching the same few channels every time you use the service. This is different across the service’s various profiles, so you don’t need to worry about someone else’s recent channels interfering with yours. This applies to DVR recordings as well.
No matter which device we used to test Hulu + Live TV, the streaming experience was good. Picture quality is crisp and clear without the softness that was so prevalent in the early days of live TV streaming, and we never encountered any hitching or buffering. One thing to note is that if you’re using the service on different devices, like an Apple TV and an Amazon Fire TV device, for example, you’ll notice some interface changes. On the Apple TV, you swipe up to get to the channel guide, while you press down on the Fire TV remote to access the guide. It wasn’t a major issue for us, but it is something to keep in mind.
If you’re on the fence about whether you should opt for Hulu + Live TV or another streaming service, start with this question: Do you already use Hulu? If the answer is yes, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy packaging all of that entertainment in one place. If you never use Hulu or you just aren’t interested in it, this may not be the service for you.
YouTube TV is its closest competitor in terms of channels and pricing, though Sling TV makes for a more flexible alternative thanks to its Orange and Blue packages. For $35, you can get Sling’s Orange and Blue bundle, which includes channels that Hulu doesn’t have, like Comedy Central and MTV. Conversely, if you’re a big news fan, Hulu has plenty of news channels in its base programming package that Sling TV doesn’t offer without add-on channels.
What’s true regardless is that Hulu + Live TV is a budget-friendly alternative to complete cable packages, offering many of the same benefits plus some added ones.
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