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Hulu Live TV Review: Great, but Not the Best for Families

Hulu + Live TV is probably the best live TV streaming service as long as you stay away from the add-ons, don’t need unlimited cloud DVR, and don’t have a large family.

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Hulu + Live TV

$54.99 p/m
3.75

Experience

3.8/5

Channels

3.5/5

Content

4.5/5

Cloud DVR

4.0/5

Price

3.0/5

Pros

  • More than just live TV
  • Colorful rich apps
  • wide device support
  • Decent cloud DVR
  • Reliable experience

Cons

  • Can get expensive
  • Home network restrictions
  • Missing some popular channels
  • Not ideal for families
  • Apps can get confusing

Hulu + Live TV is now one of the most popular live TV streaming services out there but is it worth the money? Is it the best live TV streaming service for those looking to cut the cord? Does it have enough channels and features? The short answer to all of these questions is yes … with caveats.

Hulu + Live TV launched in 2018. In spite of arriving late compared to other services, it has already amassed more than 2 million subscribers in the U.S. At $54.99 per month, Hulu offers a respectable live TV service overall, but the devil is in the detail and that’s often where Hulu falters.

In this review, we’ll look to provide an overview of what you get, what you can expect, and who Hulu + Live TV is probably best suited to. If you are already somewhat familiar with Hulu and what’s required for streaming then you’ll want to skip past the basics.

The basics

Before delving into the finer points of the review, here’s what you need to know to get started.

Hulu + Live TV is a live TV service and delivered over the internet. Therefore you will need an internet connection that’s able to handle video streaming. For a consistent and reliable viewing experience, Hulu recommends the following minimum internet download speeds:

  • 3.0 Mbps for the Hulu streaming library
  • 8.0 Mbps for live streams
  • 16.0 Mbps for 4K content

In addition, while you don’t need a specific device to access Hulu + Live TV, you will need a device that’s capable of connecting to the internet and streaming video in general.

Here’s the full list of supported devices, according to Hulu:

  • Android phones and tablets
  • Android TV (select models)
  • Apple TV (4th generation or later)
  • Chromecast
  • Echo Show
  • Fire Tablets
  • Fire TV and Fire TV Stick
  • iPhones and iPads
  • LG TV (select models)
  • Nintendo Switch
  • Mac and PC browsers
  • Roku and Roku Stick (select models)
  • Samsung TV (select models)
  • VIZIO SmartCast TVs
  • Windows 10
  • Xbox 360
  • Xbox One

You’ll also need to choose the right plan to suit your individual needs. Hulu + Live TV is primarily only available in one plan priced at $54.99 per month. However, there are some variations to that plan.

Here’s the choices:

Hulu + Live TV $54.99 per month
Hulu + Live TV (No Ads) $60.99 per month
Hulu Live TV Only $53.99 per month

It’s worth noting the “No Ads” version only refers to the removal of ads on Hulu on-demand content as shows and movies provided through the live TV side of the service will still be subjected to commercials. In this sense, it is the same difference between the $5.99 and $11.99 per month basic Hulu plans.

On the other side, the “Live TV Only” version doesn’t just remove access to the Hulu on-demand catalog, but also lacks the option to add premium networks and does not come with a free trial.

With suitable internet speeds, a compatible streaming device and a streaming package, here’s what you can expect from Hulu + Live TV.

Easy to use interface

Hulu + Live TV comes with a colorful and vibrant user interface resulting in a unique and easily identifiable experience. The exact look and feel will vary depending on the device although Hulu has done a good job of uniforming the apps across platforms and devices.

The one exception to this is the web browser version which is a little more basic in appearance.

Hulu live desktop menu
Hulu live web browser home screen

For comparison here’s a look at the mobile app home screen

Hulu live Android app
Hulu live smartphone app home screen

As well as a closer look at the TV app home screen, in this case on Android TV.

Hulu TV home screen
Hulu live Android TV app home screen

One of the common design points across platforms is Hulu + Live TV is designed to surface content you might be interested in. This design results in a quality over quantity approach were few shows and movies are visible at any one time.

Hulu relies on its algorithms to try and show you content that is either new or relevant to your viewing habits and preferences and this means if the recommendations are not great then you end up spending an increased amount of time looking for something to watch. Besides the content that’s automatically generated, Hulu offers manual navigation, although it can be a bit confusing.

On all platforms, the user is presented with primary navigation tabs consisting of Browse, Live TV, My Stuff, Search and Account. Beyond this, the navigation differs depending on device with desktop users needing to downward scroll, mobile app users sideways scroll, while TV app users get a second row of tabs at the top.

The two-row design on TVs tends to make the interface feel a little cluttered and confusing at times. Due to this, the TV app might prove especially difficult to navigate for less tech-savvy users.

Hulu live Marvel
Two rows is a little too much

Adding to the confusing TV app experience is the title pages as clicking on a video title immediately starts playback. If a user wants to go to the title’s main page to read the description, choose an episode or anything else, then they have to hold down the button for a few seconds. Considering most other TV apps link through to the main page first, Hulu’s approach feels counter-intuitive and is likely to often result in accidentally starting a show or movie when just wanting to click through to the title’s page.

Another criticism of the experience is that subscribers are not really able to select a playback quality. Across all platforms, Hulu only gives the option to select between “Best Available” and “Data Saver.”

Hulu live data saver
Not much choice on playback quality

The former will immediately play content in the best quality available while the latter will reduce the quality to save on data. While it is good that a data-conscious option is available, it would be better if the user was able to select the actual quality they would like to view at and not just be resigned to a best and worst-case scenario.

Overall, the experience and interface is nice to use and does feel intuitive enough. However, it is definitely a love it or hate it situation. If you don’t like it, you probably really won’t like it.

Balanced selection of channels

Hulu + Live TV officially claims to offer in excess of 60 channels. Technically, the listed channels runs just under 70 and even that is not the final tally. Hulu live does include access to some local channels and therefore the exact number of channels available will vary by subscriber and dependent on what local channels are available in the area.

Read more: Hulu + Live TV: Here’s every channel you get with a subscription

Before signing up, consumers do have the option of viewing a more locally accurate list of channels by entering their zip code on the main Hulu + Live TV website.

Here’s an example of the additional channels returned when checking the San Francisco 94105 zip code:

Hulu live locals
You can search by zip code for local channels

Generally speaking, the selection of channels is good. Hulu has done a decent job of offering a balance of entertainment, sports and news and most families will find the selection varied enough, but there are some caveats to be aware of.

A major one is the absence of Viacom channels from the channel lineup with no access to BET, CMT, MTV, VH1, among others. AMC is another channel that’s notably missing. However, with ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox all signed up, most major networks and channels are available.

The TV guide itself is pretty well implemented with users able to select and filter the guide however they want. Users can just view the guide in a traditional “all” channels way or filter based on genre, the channels they recently viewed or by “My Channels” – when setting up the subscription Hulu gives you the option of picking your favorite networks and those chosen end up placed in the My Channels section to benefit features like this.

Overall, the channels are not quite Hulu’s strongest point, but they are also not the weakest either. The selection is adequate enough in spite of what’s missing and navigating through the live TV guide is easy to do.

Plenty of content

One of the best selling points about Hulu + Live TV is the amount of content that’s available. Besides all the shows and movies provided live, and the on-demand component of the live service, subscribers also get access to the entire basic Hulu back catalog.

This is Hulu’s Netflix-like service with a selection of shows and movies, including Hulu Originals such as The Handmaid’s Tale, Castle Rock, PEN15, and more. This service typically costs a minimum of $5.99 per month although it is included in the live TV package at no extra cost.

HUlu TV originals
Hulu + Live TV includes all the Hulu Originals

With both of these subscriptions bundled into one, Hulu + Live TV is packed with content making it one of the most robust live TV services on the market. Those who are in need of extra content can additionally add a premium network to the package for an additional monthly fee.

The current list of premium networks available through Hulu include:

Cinemax$9.99/month
HBO$14.99/month
Showtime$10.99/month
Starz$8.99/month

One of the nice parts of the interface is how well these premium channels integrate with the rest of the service and especially as this is optional. For example, Hulu does provide separated sections for those who just want to navigate directly to a premium network to see what’s new from that network or keep watching a show or movie they’ve already started.

HBO section on Hulu live
Premium network content is easily found when looking for it

However, premium content mingles very well with the other content making the switching between premium and non-premium videos a breeze.

Hulu live with HBO
Premium content is nicely integrated with basic content

This approach is one of the main benefits of the Hulu live experience as while other services offer a similar integrated design, Hulu’s includes its own catalog in the same way and that’s something you won’t find with another live TV service. The sheer amount of content all housed within the one app and integrated perfectly genuinely adds to the experience. The amount of content, all integrated in the one app is the main reason you should consider Hulu’s live TV service.

Cloud DVR

Cloud DVR is often one of the areas overlooked when choosing a live TV service as the companies are not as forthcoming with the DVR details as they are the price or the channel selection. However, it is an important part of the decision-making process. The good news is that Hulu is fairly good on cloud DVR. It is not the best, but all things considered it is one of the better services.

Read more: Cloud DVR: Live TV streaming service comparison

A positive is that Hulu includes 50 hours of cloud DVR for free with the standard live TV subscription. In addition, Hulu does not limit how long you can keep recordings for. Navigating and managing the DVR is also fairly simple with the list located under the “My Stuff” section of the site.

The areas that are a slight concern is that Hulu will automatically delete the oldest recordings to make way for newer ones. The service is not intuitive in this sense and unless you keep on top of how much space you have left, you may find you lose recordings even if you haven’t watched them yet. One way this can be overcome is by opting for the Enhanced Cloud DVR add-on.

Hulu allows live TV subscribers to up the DVR limit from 50 hours to 200 hours. This higher limit is far more suitable for heavier users and certainly for busier households. However, the Enhanced Cloud DVR add-on costs an additional $9.99 per month and that’s a fairly big premium on top of the subscription price.

Another concern is that although the DVR list is easily found under the “My Stuff” section, it is not as user-friendly as it could be. For example, navigating through other areas of the site and content is far more visual making it easier to find specific shows and movies to watch. In contrast, the Manage DVR section is more limited and requires more concentration. Considering this is content a user has actually saved, it should have been given more prominence.

Hulu TV cloud DVR
Manage DVR section not as visually striking as the rest of the app.

One of the reasons it doesn’t have the prominence it should is Hulu’s tendency to push people towards the “My Stuff” section in general. However, as this section includes more than just the recordings, the user experience would be improved if the DVR’s section was given its own top-level section for easier navigation and finding.

A final issue with the cloud DVR is that you cannot skip through the ads on recordings. Well, that’s not technically true as those who pay for the Enhanced Cloud DVR add-on can skip them. It’s just those who stick with the free 50 hours that are not able to avoid the commercials.

Price

Hulu + Live TV is priced fine, relatively speaking. Over the past couple of years, live TV streaming services have been the subject of price increases and Hulu is no exception with its live TV service increasing in price twice in 2019, alone.

Read more: Live TV streaming price increase tracker

At $54.99 per month, Hulu + Live TV is a better service for those who already have a $5.99 Hulu subscription, or those who see value in Hulu’s back catalog. For those consumers, the cost of the actual live TV service comes down to below $50 per month and thanks to the integrated interface and experience, Hulu as a live TV provider is a better option than opting for a different live TV service and then paying and accessing the $5.99 Hulu plan through a separate app.

Hulu TV pricing

Where Hulu’s pricing does run into issues is once you start adding features as the cost can escalate, and quickly.

Features that require an additional cost per month:

Premium Networks $8.99 to $14.99/month
Enhanced cloud DVR$9.99/month
Unlimited Screens$9.99/month
Entertainment Add-on$7.99/month
Español Add-on$4.99/month

On its own, at $54.99 per month Hulu live offers good value overall but if you often need to access the service on more than two devices at the same time, need more than 50 hours of cloud DVR, and wouldn’t mind even one premium network then suddenly the cost starts to near $90 to $100 per month. At that price, Hulu + Live TV is a completely different proposition.

The bottom line

For most people, under most circumstances, Hulu + Live TV is going to be the best option. It is the live TV service that gives you the most content as part of the base package and the integration makes it a great one-stop shop for TV and video streaming. Likewise, the other additional features included in the baseline package genuinely do add to the experience overall.

Where the service does run into issues is with most of the main features and benefits requiring an add-on or premium to really make them worthwhile. Yes, these are optional purchases and so you don’t have to pay for them, but for larger families where more than two screens and more than 50 hours is a necessity, Hulu + Live TV is unlikely to be the right choice.

For those busier households, YouTube TV with its unlimited (and personalized) cloud DVR, and 3 simultaneous streams, is almost certainly going to be the better option. For everyone else, Hulu + Live TV works great.

John Finn

By John Finn

John is the founder of Streaming Clarity and has been writing about smartphones and TV-related services and devices since 2014. John streams everything and genuinely believes the best streaming approach is to bounce between streaming services as needed. Contact John via email at john@streamingclarity.com or on Twitter

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