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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 be confusing

Hulu Live TV is a great live TV streaming service and especially for those who are already paying for basic Hulu. With a decent cloud DVR and on demand section, Hulu Live TV has a lot going for it. However, it is less likely to be as good of an option for larger families and busier households, due to the recording and simultaneous streams limitations.

Hulu live: the basics

Before delving into the finer points of Hulu live, here’s what consumers need to know to get started. Those already familiar with live TV streaming, might want to skip to the next section.

Hulu Live TV launched in 2018. In spite of arriving late to the market, compared to other services, it has already amassed more than three million subscribers in the U.S. This is a service that delivers live TV over the internet and therefore, consumers will need a connection that’s able to handle video streaming.

Hulu recommended minimum internet speeds:

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

In addition, while consumers won’t need a specific device to access Hulu Live TV, they will need a device that’s capable of connecting to the internet and supports the Hulu app.

Hulu live popular supported devices:

  • 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

Along with a reliable internet connection and a supported device, consumers will also need to choose the right plan to suit their individual needs. Hulu Live TV is primarily only available in one plan, priced at $54.99 per month, but there are some variations to that plan.

Hulu Live TV plan options:

Hulu planPrice p/m
Live TV $54.99
Live TV (No Ads) $60.99
Live TV Only $53.99

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

For those considering the “Live TV Only” option, this plan choice doesn’t just remove access to the Hulu on-demand catalog, but also lacks the option to add premium networks. Hulu Live TV Only also does not come with a free trial.

Read more: Hulu Live TV free trial options explained

Experience and ease of use

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 providing a uniformed experience across the many apps, platforms and devices.

The one exception to this is the web browser version, which ultimately is a little more basic in design and 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 fewer shows and movies are visible at any one time.

Hulu relies on its algorithms to try and show content that is either new or relevant to the user’s viewing habits and preferences. This also means that if the recommendations are not great, it can take longer to find 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 the device. For example, desktop users need to downward scroll, mobile app users sideways scroll, while the TV app get a second row of tabs at the top.

This two-row design on TVs tends to make the interface feel more cluttered and confusing than it needs to be. 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. On some platforms, 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 need 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 more instances where a show or movie is accidentally started.

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 consumption. 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, and not be resigned to a best or worst-case scenario.

Overall, the experience and interface is visually interesting and does feel intuitive enough. However, it is definitely likely to be a love or hate situation. Those that don’t like Hulu’s design will probably really dislike it.

Channels and live TV

Hulu Live TV officially claims to offer more than 65 channels. As Hulu live does include access to some local channels, the exact number available will vary slightly by subscriber.

Read more: Hulu Live TV channels list

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. Below is an example of the additional channels available for those residing in the San Francisco 94105 zip code:

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

The selection of channels is good overall. Hulu has done a decent job of balancing entertainment, sports, and news, and most families will find the selection varies 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 fairly basic, but usable. Subscribers are able to select and filter the guide in a variety of ways. Besides the “All” setting, channels can be filtered based on genre, recently viewed, or by “My Channels” – when setting up a subscription, Hulu provides the opportunity to select favorite networks that form the My Channels section.

Overall, while channels are not Hulu’s strongest selling point, they are not its weakest point either. The selection is adequate enough and navigating through the live TV guide is easy to do.

On demand content

One of the biggest selling points is the amount of content that’s available. Besides all the shows and movies provided live or through the on-demand section, 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, but it’s included in the live TV package at no extra cost.

HUlu TV originals
Hulu Live TV includes 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 around. Those in need of extra content can also add a premium network to the package, albeit at an additional monthly cost.

Hulu Live premium networks:

Premium NetworkPrice p/m
Cinemax$9.99
HBO Max$14.99
Showtime$10.99
Starz$8.99

One of the nicer parts of the interface is how well these premium channels integrate with the rest of the service. For example, Hulu does provide separate sections for those who just want to navigate directly to a premium network to see what’s new or to continue 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 is also integrated with the other content, making switching between premium and non-premium videos super easy.

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

The sheer amount of content all housed within the one app and integrated so well genuinely adds to the experience. Overall, if access to as much content as possible is a major selling point, then this is one of the main reasons to consider Hulu’s live TV service.

Cloud DVR

Cloud DVR can often be an area that’s overlooked when choosing a live TV service, even though it’s 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 recording experiences.

Read more: Cloud DVR: Live TV streaming service comparison

A major 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 a user 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.

One area that is of 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 the subscriber keeps on top of how much space they have left, they may find they lose recordings, even if they haven’t been watched yet. One way this can be overcome is by opting for the Enhanced Cloud DVR add-on.

Hulu allows live TV subscribers to increase 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 base subscription cost.

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 greater concentration. Considering this is saved content, it should be given more prominence.

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

One of the reasons recording don’t have the prominence they 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 section was more easy to navigate to.

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

Hulu Live TV: price and value

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

Read more: Live TV streaming price increase tracker

At $54.99 per month, Hulu Live TV offers even better value to those who already subscribe to the $5.99 basic Hulu, 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. 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.

Optional Hulu live costs per month:

FeaturePrice p/m
Premium Networks $8.99 to $14.99
Enhanced Cloud DVR$9.99
Unlimited Screens$9.99
Entertainment Add-on$7.99
Español Add-on$4.99

At $54.99 per month, Hulu live offers good value on its own. If the service often needs to be accessed on more than two devices at the same time, more than 50 hours of cloud DVR is needed, and even one premium network is added, then suddenly the cost starts to near the $100 per month marker. At those higher prices, Hulu Live TV is a completely different proposition.

Hulu Live TV review summary

Under most circumstances, Hulu Live TV is going to be a good option for many consumers. It is the live TV service that provides the most content through its 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 to really make them worthwhile. Yes, these are optional purchases and so they are not required, but for larger families where more than two screens and 50 hours are more of 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 will be good enough.

Read more: Network apps Hulu Live TV subscribers can access

John Finn

By John Finn

John started Streaming Clarity to help consumers navigate the live TV streaming and subscription service landscape. John has been writing about technology and TV-related services and devices since 2014 and believes the best streaming approach is to bounce between services as needed. Contact John via email at john@streamingclarity.com or on Twitter

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