Services & Software

Hulu Live TV with Disney Plus and ESPN Plus: How to get the best deal

Hulu Plus Live TV now costs $70 per month, but the latest price hike includes a new bundle that could actually save subscribers some money.

Hulu Plus Live TV on display.
Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The latest developments in streaming may have you pulling out your calculator to decide which service fits your budget. Netflix bumped up its monthly fees while HBO Max is enticing customers with a limited-time discount. The math is sometimes in your favor, and sometimes not.

When Hulu increased prices for Hulu Plus Live TV in December, the rate jumped by $5 to a whopping $70 per month but the company threw in access to Disney Plus and ESPN Plus. Cord-cutters who subscribe to Hulu's live TV streaming service, which streams channels like CBS, NBC, ESPN and CNN live, now have both included in their plans at no additional charge. Disney Plus and ESPN Plus normally cost $8 and $7 per month, respectively.

If you're a Hulu Live TV subscriber who already has Disney Plus, ESPN Plus or both as a separate subscription, the new bundle will save you up to $10 per month. Bear in mind this is a different offering from Hulu's Disney Bundle, which includes ESPN Plus, Disney Plus and regular Hulu, not the live TV version.

Here's how to plug in to the deal.

Read more: Best streaming service deals

Activate your Disney Plus ESPN Plus subscriptions with Hulu directly

If your Hulu Plus Live TV service is billed through Hulu, you can subscribe to the Disney plan by logging in to your account. Your main Hulu account page will have a section for activations where you can click on a link to set up your access to Disney Plus and ESPN Plus.

screen-shot-2022-01-20-at-2-22-12-pm.png

The activation link is inside the account section at hulu.com. 

Hulu/Screenshot by David Katzmaier/CNET

Prior to the price hike on Dec. 21, Hulu sent emails to eligible Hulu Live TV subscribers that included an activation link for Disney Plus and ESPN Plus. If you're an eligible Hulu Live user with existing Disney Plus and ESPN Plus subscriptions, you don't have to cancel them, as Hulu will adjust the amount charged each month. The key is to register with the same email address for each service so everything will be linked. Check your email or Hulu account to determine whether you're eligible.

After activating, be sure to check your existing Disney Plus or ESPN Plus accounts to make sure you aren't paying twice. 

As an aside, Hulu gives you the option to temporarily pause your subscription for up to 12 weeks, halting payments and access to its content. However, it's important to note that if you choose to pause your Hulu subscription, you also lose access to Disney Plus and ESPN Plus. 

Billed through Amazon, Roku, Apple or Google? You may want to switch

One catch for Hulu Plus Live TV customers is that you must make your monthly payments via Hulu to receive free access to Disney Plus and ESPN Plus. To find out who's billing you, check your Hulu account page. If you're paying through a third party such as Roku, Apple, Google, or Amazon's Prime Video, you are not automatically eligible for the new package. 

If you want the bundle, you can cancel your current subscription through the third-party provider and, once your billing cycle ends, sign up with Hulu directly. For example, you can switch from being billed through Roku to paying Hulu for your Hulu Live subscription. 

Be aware that by choosing this option, you may lose any reduced rates you received through your third party. Roku and Amazon are still charging $65 per month price for Hulu Live subscriptions, for example. That could change at any time, as well.

Now playing: Watch this: How to cut the cord: 7 questions you need to answer
7:16

Hulu Live TV versus rival, YouTube TV

Hulu Live is CNET's second-favorite service for live TV streaming, after YouTube TV. Unlike Hulu, YouTube TV's service provides unlimited DVR at no extra cost and has more of our top 100 channels, and after Hulu's price hike it costs $5 less. Despite the addition of Disney Plus and ESPN Plus to Hulu, Editors' Choice Award winner YouTube TV remains our pick for cord-cutters who want to watch live programming.

For existing Disney Plus and ESPN Plus subscribers, however, Hulu Live's bundle could be tempting. Signing up for Disney Plus to supplement a YouTube TV subscription would bring your monthly total to $73, making it more expensive than Hulu at $70. If you don't care much about the DVR or YouTube TV's extra channels -- or you want ESPN Plus too -- it might be worth going with Hulu Live instead of YouTube TV to save the money.

Read moreBest live TV streaming service for cord-cutters