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Hulu Plus Live TV Review: Big Bundle for Cord Cutters at a Premium Price

Now including Disney Plus and an unlimited DVR, Hulu's Live TV service offers a compelling alternative to YouTube TV.

At $7 a month, basic Hulu is one of the best deals in streaming, with gobs of current and past TV shows and movies, but what happens if you pay some more? And I mean, a lot more. The upgrade to Hulu Plus Live TV costs a hefty $70 and buys a healthy mix of live sports, news and local channels, and Hulu's newest secret weapons: the Disney bundle and an unlimited DVR. That combination of live channels with Hulu and Disney and a deep on-demand catalog is something no other live TV streaming service can match.

8.4

Hulu Plus Live TV

Like

  • Solid mix of channels
  • Full access to Hulu's on-demand content
  • Disney Plus and ESPN Plus included

Don't Like

  • Worse live channel selection, more expensive than YouTube TV

Hulu costs slightly more than our favorite such service, YouTube TV, but the Disney and DVR upgrades -- previously worth $13 separately -- close the gap like never before. The main advantage YouTube TV maintains over Hulu is a better channel count. Channel selection is a big deal, however, and we feel most cord-cutters are better served with YouTube TV and the ability to add (or drop) Disney or "regular" Hulu if they want. Hulu Plus Live TV remains a solid second-place choice and superior to both FuboTV and DirecTV Stream, unless you're a sports fan who needs a particular sports channel, particularly an RSN for baseball. Hulu Live is an excellent solution for premium cord-cutting thanks to its big bundle, but if you want to save some serious money you should opt for Sling TV Blue instead.

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What do you get?

Hulu Plus Live TV expands upon the on-demand service with more than 75 live channels and throws in both a cloud DVR and program guide. Live TV is available via Hulu's standard app on all the major platforms, including computer browsers, iOS, Xbox, PlayStation, Android, Apple TV, Fire TV, Roku and smart TV systems. 

Channels: Hulu's channel count is solid but has a handful fewer major cable channels than YouTube TV. The service is missing popular channels AMC and BBC America, which every one of Hulu's competitors offers. It's also missing PBS local stations, as well as MLB Network and NBA TV, all of which are available on YouTube TV. As a counterpoint to this, Hulu does offer the History channel, Lifetime and A&E, none of which are on YouTube TV. With the December 2021 price hike to $70, the Hulu Plus Live TV package now includes Disney Plus and ESPN Plus, which is a $14 value on its own.

Read more: A Guide to Streaming Your Favorite Live TV Channels Without Cable

Sports: Just like YouTube TV, Hulu has dropped many regional sports networks, so if you want MLB regular season games, your best bet is DirecTV Stream's $90 plan. The same goes for NHL and NBA during those sports' regular seasons. If you're a football fan, though, the recent addition of NFL Network is a sweetener. For further channel inclusions, check the lineup at the end of this article, or our baseball guide below, to see if the Hulu Plus Live TV's mix is right for you.

Read more: MLB Streaming 2022: How to Watch Your Baseball Team Live This Season

Premium live TV streaming services compared

Premium services YouTube TV DirecTV Stream Hulu Plus Live TV FuboTV
Base price per month $65 $70 $70 $65
Total number of top 100 channels 79 62 73 61
ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC channels Yes Yes Yes Yes
Record shows for later (cloud DVR) Yes (unlimited) Yes (20 hours, unlimited hours for $10 a month) Yes (unlimited) Yes (250 hours)
Step-up packages with more channels No ($20 for 4K, unlimited streams)  Yes Yes Yes
Simultaneous streams per account 3 20  2 ($10 option for unlimited) 3
hulu-plus-live-tv-4
Ty Pendlebury/CNET

What's it like to use?

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, which are now classified according to type. Across the major 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 is a traditional grid that offers guide data, up to 14 days out, and scrolling through these 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 while on web browsers YouTube offers seven days out, we found it can be painfully slow to navigate.

05-hulu-live-tv
Sarah Tew/CNET

But it's not all good news for Hulu. 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 and select the option to record. I do appreciate that once you start moving through a recording, the ad breaks show up in the timeline as little solid dashes -- in addition to the thumbnail video -- making it easier to resume watching without zooming too far into your program.

Should you get it?

If you enjoy the mix of channels and subscribe to the services in the bundle already, then Hulu Plus 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 a bit YouTube TV 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 select services. 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 ($70) YouTube TV ($65) FuboTV ($70) DirecTV Stream ($70) Sling Blue ($35)
Total channels: 73 79 61 62 36
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 Yes No
CW Yes Yes Yes Yes No
MyNetworkTV Yes Yes No Yes No
Channel Hulu with Live TV ($70) YouTube TV ($65) FuboTV ($70) DirecTV Stream ($70) Sling Blue ($35)
A&E Yes No No Yes Yes
ACC Network Yes Yes Yes $ No
Accuweather No No 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 Yes Yes Yes
Boomerang Yes No No Yes $
Bravo Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Channel Hulu with Live TV ($70) YouTube TV ($65) FuboTV ($70) DirecTV Stream ($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 Yes 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
E! Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
EPIX No $ 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 ($70) YouTube TV ($65) FuboTV ($70) DirecTV Stream ($70) Sling Blue ($35)
Food Network Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fox Business Yes Yes Yes Yes $
Fox News Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
FS1 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
FS2 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 No $ $
Golf Channel Yes Yes Yes $ $
Hallmark No Yes Yes Yes $
HBO/HBO Max $ $ No $ No
HGTV Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
History Yes No No Yes Yes
HLN Yes Yes No Yes Yes
IFC No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Investigation Discovery Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Lifetime Yes No No Yes Yes
Lifetime Movie Network Yes No No $ $
Channel Hulu with Live TV ($70) YouTube TV ($65) FuboTV ($70) DirecTV Stream ($70) Sling Blue ($35)
Magnolia Network (formerly DIY) $ No $ $ $
MLB Network No Yes $ $ $
Motor Trend Yes Yes Yes Yes No
MSNBC Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
MTV Yes Yes Yes Yes $
MTV2 $ Yes $ Yes $
National Geographic Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Nat Geo Wild Yes Yes $ $ $
NBA TV No Yes $ $ $
NFL Network Yes Yes Yes No Yes
NFL Red Zone $ $ $ No $
NHL Network No No $ $ $
Nickelodeon Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Nick Jr. Yes Yes Yes $ Yes
Nicktoons $ Yes $ $ $
Olympic Channel Yes Yes Yes $ $
OWN Yes Yes Yes $ No
Oxygen Yes Yes Yes $ $
Paramount Network Yes Yes Yes Yes $
Science $ No $ $ $
Channel Hulu with Live TV ($70) YouTube TV ($65) FuboTV ($70) DirecTV Stream ($70) Sling Blue ($35)
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 $
TeenNick $ Yes $ 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 No Yes Yes
WE tv No Yes Yes Yes $