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Sarah Tew/CNET

At $6 a month, basic Hulu is one of the best deals in streaming with gobs of current and past TV shows and movies. Its Hulu with Live TV upgrade costs a lot more at $55, but that monthly fee buys one of the best live TV streaming services around. Hulu Plus Live TV is among our favorite recommendations for people looking to quit cable TV yet keep live sports, news and other channels. It has a healthy mix of channels and includes a cloud DVR at the cheapest tier, but it’s Hulu’s deep on-demand catalog that sets it apart. 

Like

  • Solid mix of channels for the money
  • Full access to Hulu’s on-demand content

Don’t Like

  • The interface is a little funky
  • DVR is quite limited without the $10 upgrade
  • YouTube TV is $5 cheaper for more channels

Overall we still like YouTube TV ($50 at YouTube TV) better than Hulu with Live TV, however, because YouTube TV offers more top channels for less money and a superior cloud DVR. Hulu is the next-best premium ($50+) live TV service after YouTube — better than Fubo TV, AT&T TV and AT&T TV Now — and for some people, for example sports fans in Los Angeles and New York, it’s even better than YouTube TV. It all depends on the channels and how much you value DVR functionality, but in any case Hulu with Live TV is a worthy cable TV replacement.

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What do you get?

Hulu Plus Live TV expands on the existing on-demand service with over 60 live channels and throws in both a DVR and program guide guide. Live TV is available on via Hulu’s standard app on all the major platforms including computer browsers, iOS, Xbox OnePS4, Android, Apple TV ($179 at Apple), Fire TV ($35 at Amazon), Roku and Smart TV systems. 

Hulu’s channel count is solid but has a handful fewer major cable channels than than YouTube TV and Fubo TV (meanwhile AT&T TV Now has HBO). Check the channel lineup at the end of the article, to see if the Hulu Plus Live TV’s mix is right for you. Important missing channels include AMC, BBC America, MTV and Comedy Central.   

Like most other live TV streaming services, Hulu has had a number of price increases since it debuted and currently costs at least $55 a month.

Premium live TV streaming services compared

Premium services YouTube TV AT&T TV Now Hulu Plus Live TV FuboTV
Base price $50/month $65/month $55/month $60/month
Total number of top 100 channels 67 46 59 62
ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC channels Yes Yes, in many markets Yes, in many markets Yes (no ABC)
Record shows for later (cloud DVR) Yes (keep for 9 months) Yes (20GB, keep for 30 days) Yes (50 hours, 200 hours plus commercial skip for $10/month) Yes (30GB, 500GB for $10 a month)
Step-up packages with more channels No $70/month No $80/month
Simultaneous streams per account 3 2 ($5 option for 3) 2 ($10 option for unlimited) 2 ($6 option for 3)

Apart from the unusual interface, the service’s biggest gotcha is the $10-a-month charge for the Enhanced DVR. Without it, the standard, non-enhanced DVR on Hulu Plus Live TV lacks the ability to fast-forward and rewind through commercials on recorded content. In addition to allowing you to fast-forward through commercials, paying for the upgrade also increases storage from 50 hours to 200 hours.

Many users see commercial skipping as a must-have for any DVR. Adding it brings the monthly price of Hulu Plus Live TV up to $65, which is as expensive as the basic tier of any other live TV service gets. And all of the other premium services include cloud DVRs that let you skip commercials as part of their standard functions and the best, YouTube TV, has unlimited storage, too.

Read more: YouTube TV vs. Sling TV vs. Hulu vs. Philo vs. Fubo vs. AT&T TV Now: Live TV channels compared

What’s it like to use?

hulu

Screenshot: Ty Pendlebury/CNET

Of all of the live TV services you could name, Hulu’s interface has the most radical design. Like Hulu proper, “Plus Live TV” shows its subscribers just four-and-a-half shows at a time in a large font. Across the top are not one but two rows of options — the top for organizing and watching your content, and the second is of a list of suggested titles. Compared to the simplicity of the YouTube interface its text-heaviness can be a little overwhelming. 

Hulu has been tweaking the live TV interface since it launched a couple years ago, and the changes are for the better. Hulu’s program guide was once one of the least -usable in the category, but it’s now become even more extensive than YouTube’s. Instead of showing a stylized guide with only five shows on it at a time Hulu Plus Live TV now gives you a traditional grid. With guide data 14 days out it eclipses YouTube’s guide which only displays programs up to eight hours in advance. The downside to Hulu’s approach is that navigating it is slow — it takes a few seconds to refresh each page. Meanwhile AT&T’s TV Now’s guide is better optimized for side-scrolling and is relatively zippy. 

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Recording to the DVR is a little bit of a pain — you can only do it from the guide, or if you want to record the show you’re watching by exiting to the guide. You need to enter the guide and either long-press the middle button (Apple/Roku) or press the hamburger button and click record. Every other DVR-available service lets you record while you’re still watching it.

Should you get it?

If you enjoy the mix of channels and don’t need a DVR with commercial skipping, then 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. 

If you are looking for a premium live TV service, YouTube TV offers a cheaper rate, most of the same channels, an unlimited DVR for no extra charge and a menu system that’s much easier to use. YouTube TV is currently my Editor’s choice among the premium live TV streaming offerings, but Hulu Live is a solid second.

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 each service. 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. 

Channel lineups compared

Channel YouTube TV ($50) Hulu with Live TV ($55) Fubo TV ($55) AT&T TV Now ($65)
Total channels: 67 59 62 46
ABC Yes Yes No Yes
CBS Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fox Yes Yes Yes Yes
NBC Yes Yes Yes Yes
PBS Yes No No No
CW Yes Yes Yes Yes
MyNetworkTV Yes Yes Yes Yes
Channel YouTube TV ($50) Hulu with Live TV ($55) Fubo TV ($55) AT&T TV Now ($65)
A&E No Yes Yes $
ACC Network Yes Yes No No
AMC Yes No Yes $
Animal Planet Yes Yes Yes $
BBC America Yes No Yes $
BBC World News Yes No $ $
BET No No Yes Yes
Big Ten Network Yes Yes Yes $
Bloomberg TV No No No $
Boomerang No Yes $ Yes
Bravo Yes Yes Yes Yes
Channel YouTube TV ($50) Hulu with Live TV ($55) Fubo TV ($55) AT&T TV Now ($65)
Cartoon Network Yes Yes Yes Yes
CBS Sports Network Yes Yes Yes $
Cheddar Yes Yes Yes Yes
Cinemax No $ No $
CMT No No Yes $
CNBC Yes Yes Yes Yes
CNN Yes Yes Yes Yes
Comedy Central No No Yes Yes
Cooking Channel No $ $ $
Destination America No $ $ $
Discovery Channel Yes Yes Yes $
Disney Channel Yes Yes No Yes
Disney Junior Yes Yes No Yes
Disney XD Yes Yes No Yes
DIY No $ $ $
E! Yes Yes Yes Yes
EPIX $ No No $
ESPN Yes Yes No Yes
ESPN 2 Yes Yes No Yes
ESPNEWS Yes Yes No $
ESPNU Yes Yes No $
Channel YouTube TV ($50) Hulu with Live TV ($55) Fubo TV ($55) AT&T TV Now ($65)
Food Network Yes Yes Yes $
Fox Business Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fox News Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fox Sports 1 Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fox Sports 2 Yes Yes Yes $
Freeform Yes Yes No Yes
FX Yes Yes No Yes
FX Movies Yes Yes No Yes
FXX Yes Yes No Yes
FYI No $ Yes $
Golf Channel Yes Yes Yes $
Hallmark No No Yes Yes
HBO No $ No Yes
HGTV Yes Yes Yes $
History No Yes Yes $
HLN Yes Yes Yes Yes
IFC Yes No Yes $
Investigation Discovery Yes Yes Yes $
Lifetime No Yes Yes $
Lifetime Movie Network No $ Yes $
Channel YouTube TV ($50) Hulu with Live TV ($55) Fubo TV ($55) AT&T TV Now ($65)
MLB Network Yes No No $
Motor Trend Yes Yes Yes $
MSNBC Yes Yes Yes Yes
MTV No No Yes Yes
MTV2 No No $ $
National Geographic Yes Yes No Yes
Nat Geo Wild Yes Yes No Yes
NBA TV Yes No $ $
NBC Sports Network Yes Yes Yes Yes
Newsy Yes No $ No
NFL Network No No Yes No
NFL Red Zone No No $ No
NHL Network No No No $
Nickelodeon No No Yes Yes
Nick Jr. No No Yes Yes
Nicktoons No No $ $
OWN Yes No Yes $
Oxygen Yes Yes Yes Yes
Paramount Network No No Yes $
Channel YouTube TV ($50) Hulu with Live TV ($55) Fubo TV ($55) AT&T TV Now ($65)
Science No $ $ $
SEC Network Yes Yes No $
Showtime $ $ $ $
Smithsonian Yes Yes Yes No
Starz $ $ No $
Sundance TV Yes No Yes $
Syfy Yes Yes Yes Yes
Tastemade Yes No No No
TBS Yes Yes Yes Yes
TCM Yes Yes Yes Yes
Telemundo Yes Yes Yes Yes
Tennis Channel Yes No $ $
TLC Yes Yes Yes $
TNT Yes Yes Yes Yes
Travel Channel Yes Yes Yes $
TruTV Yes Yes Yes Yes
TV Land No No Yes $
Univision No No Yes $
USA Network Yes Yes Yes Yes
VH1 No No Yes Yes
Viceland No Yes Yes $
WE tv Yes No Yes $
Channel YouTube TV ($50) Hulu with Live TV ($55) Fubo TV ($55) AT&T TV Now ($65)