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Hulu with Live TV is one of the best ways to cut the cord.
It’s never been easier to break up with your cable company, thanks to live TV streaming options. Sling TV, YouTube TV, and FuboTV provide great alternatives for replicating a traditional TV viewing experience on a streaming device, but Hulu with Live TV offers something a little different. You still get great streaming live TV, but you also get access to Hulu’s deep catalog and an app that learns what you like and recommends programs to you. Here’s everything you need to know about Hulu live TV, from a complete channel list to the cost of different packages and premium add-ons.
What is Hulu with Live TV?
Hulu with Live TV is exactly what it sounds like: Hulu’s traditional on-demand streaming service with the bonus of live TV channels. Combining the best parts of Hulu and cable television without having to negotiate with a cable company, Hulu with Live TV provides a great middle ground for people transitioning into cord-cutting. The only catch is that its menus take a little bit of getting used to.
The service comes with 50-plus channels, with the final number mainly depending on where you live. We tested the service in Los Angeles and had nine local channels in addition to everything included in the basic package. In Chattanooga, Tennessee, by contrast, you would get four local channels. You can check on Hulu’s website to see what’s available in your zip code.
Hulu with Live TV also brings additional on-demand options to the traditional Hulu service. What shows and events each network are streaming on-demand depend on the networks, but the added content takes some of the sting out of Live’s cost.
How does Hulu live TV work?
Unlike its competitor Sling TV, Hulu’s live TV interface doesn’t have a traditional grid showing you what’s playing at any given moment. Going to the Live menu will show you what’s playing, but the listings are ordered based on the shows and networks you tend to watch the most. That can be annoying if you like just flipping between channels to discover new content, but Hulu also offers a quick guide to let you channel-surf during commercials: By pressing up on your remote, you can bring up a “more to watch” menu that shows you what other shows are currently on.
Hulu’s “based on what you like” system takes some getting used to, but the app does a great job of getting to know you. When you first log into the service, Hulu asks what channels and shows you like the most, and as you watch more, it molds your listings based on your viewing habits.
The basic subscription allows two people to watch on two separate screens at once.
Hulu Live TV devices
Hulu with Live TV works with Roku, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, select smart TVs, as well as Apple and Android devices, and the Xbox One and Xbox 360. As of November 2017, you can also stream Hulu with Live TV on Nintendo Switch. That’s one more reason why Hulu is one of the best options for streaming live TV.
The streaming quality is solid. I watched on both a 55-inch 4K TV using the Xbox One Hulu app, on Roku, and on an iPhone SE. In each case, live TV looked good. When streaming live, channels vary between 720p and 1080p. On-demand content is remarkably sharper, living up to Hulu’s standard streaming content. Interestingly, while the picture quality was never particularly mind-blowing on live TV, I never once experienced buffering, with the exception of on a few ads.
Hulu with Live TV channels
Hulu’s Live TV option only comes with one package, but it’s an impressive lineup. Food Network, Nat Geo, TNT, and the Travel Channel are all included, along with lesser-known gems like the horror channel Chiller and Viceland. You can expect the same channels as a standard basic cable package with a few glaring exceptions. Viacom is out, so you don’t get Comedy Central, MTV, Spike, or Nickelodeon, which could be a deal-breaker. In addition, AMC is not included, so you’ll have to get you’ll have to watch The Walking Dead season 8 elsewhere.
Hulu offers the widest range of news options, letting you switch between Fox, MSNBC, or CNN to see what the different sides are arguing. While FuboTV has more sports options, Hulu comes with 12 separate sports channels, including ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN 3, and ESPN U. Without any add-ons, Hulu has the most complete package of channels around. Here’s a look at what comes with it.
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Hulu live TV channels
- Big Ten Network
- Cartoon Network
- CBS Sports Network
- CNN International
- The CW
- The Disney Channel
- Disney Junior
- Disney XD
- ESPN 2
- ESPN Goal Line
- Food Network
- Fox Business
- Fox News
- NBC Golf
- The History Channel
- Lifetime Movies
- National Geographic
- Nat Geo WILD
- Olympic Channel
- SEC Network
- Smithsonian Channel
- Travel Channel
- Universal Kids
Hulu Live TV cost
Hulu with Live TV costs $39.99 for 50-plus channels of sports, news, and entertainment. Your subscription includes access to Hulu with Limited Commercials (a $7.99/month value), letting you dive into Hulu’s deep catalog of movies, TV shows, anime, documentaries, scary movies, and must-see Hulu originals.
If you want to access Hulu’s streaming library for on-demand entertainment without commercials, you can upgrade for $4 per month, bringing your total cost $43.99 per month.
Hulu also offers a $14.99 a month “unlimited screens” add-on that lets an unlimited number of people stream over a Wi-Fi connection or up to three people to stream at once on mobile.
An Enhanced Cloud DVR option is also available for an extra $14.99 a month, giving you 200 hours of Cloud DVR recording and the ability to fast-forward through commercials on your recordings. You can combine those two features—Enhanced Cloud DVR and Unlimited Screens—for just $20 a month.
Hulu live TV add-ons
Hulu live TV is one of your best options for accessing premium channels without a premium cable channel. You can add each of the following as a monthly subscription. In fact, Hulu offers the best deal for watching HBO online, giving you access to its programming on-demand, including shows like Game of Thrones, the night they air, just as you would with HBO Go or HBO Now, for $14.99 a month for your first six months.
Hulu Live TV vs Sling TV
Choosing between Hulu with Live TV and Sling TV is a difficult proposition that mostly depends on your needs. Hulu costs $39.99 a month. That’s $20 more than Sling Blue and $14 more than Sling Orange, or the same price as Sling Orange + Blue, which you’ll need if you want to watch ESPN. And if you want MSNBC on Sling TV, you have to buy a “news” add-on. But Sling TV does have big names like Disney (ESPN) and Viacom (Comedy Central/MTV/etc.) that add tremendous value.
Either way, if you’re looking for a complete package, you’re going to be paying close to $40. You might as well get the most for your money, and Hulu live TV includes the service’s on-demand library.
Hulu with Live TV vs FuboTV
if you’re a soccer fan, FuboTV is your only real option. The sports streaming service offers more soccer-related channels than any other streaming service on the market, making it easy to follow games from around the world. It’s also one of the better ways to watch NFL RedZone online, which is available as part of a 15-channel Sports Plus package for an additional $8.99 per month.
When it comes to basic cable, the channels for both services are comparable, and neither one has access to Viacom. After a recent price hike, FuboTV now costs $39.99 per month, which is the same as Hulu with Live TV, but without the added benefit of Hulu’s library.
Hulu with Live TV vs DirecTV Now
DirecTV Now offers steep competition to Hulu with Live TV. For starters, its entry-level package is only $30 a month—that’s $5 cheaper than Hulu—and offers 10 more channels, including, notably, AMC. It’s also $10 cheaper a month to add HBO via DirecTV. If you’re looking to get as many channels as possible, no one offers a more robust selection than DirecTV Now. It’s $70/month Gotta Have It package packs a whopping 120-plus channels. But here’s the real kicker: If you’re an AT&T Unlimited customer, you’ll save $25 automatically on every DirecTV package, which means you could be streaming live TV for as little as $10 a month.
The only downside to DirecTV Now at the moment is that it doesn’t support cloud DVR (though it’s been beta testing the future) and, obviously, it doesn’t come with Hulu’s deep catalog of original content and on-demand TV shows.
Hulu with Live TV vs YouTube TV
After a recent price hike, YouTube TV is now the same cost as Hulu with Live TV: $39.99 a month. Both have notable features. For example, YouTube TV allows you to create up to six accounts, all of which come with unlimited DVR and the ability to fast-forward through ads, so long as you’re all using the same address. But if we had to choose, Hulu with Live TV is still the better option. That’s because, while you are getting roughly the same number of channels, a Hulu subscription comes with access to Hulu’s full library, local channels, and the ability to add HBO.
Is Hulu Live TV worth it?
Hulu’s live TV is a delightful molding of live broadcasting and a traditional streaming experience, but it’s far from perfect. Learning its menu system can take a little bit of time, especially if you’ve just recently made the switch from cable to streaming. However, if you’ve been using Hulu as your primary viewing option for a while, the user experience is quick to pick up.
If you can afford $40 a month and don’t mind learning a new system, Hulu with Live TV is the best option on the market for streaming live TV. Hulu has the most channels, great on-demand options, and comes with a standard Hulu subscription. Each service has its charms, but at the moment Hulu is the killer app.
The Daily Dot may receive a payment in connection with purchases of products or services featured in this article.
John-Michael Bond is a tech reporter and culture writer for Daily Dot. A longtime cord-cutter and early adopter, he's an expert on streaming services (Hulu with Live TV), devices (Roku, Amazon Fire), and anime. A former staff writer for TUAW, he's knowledgeable on all things Apple and Android. You can also also find him regularly performing standup comedy in Los Angeles.