Hulu Plus Live TV review: Excellent catalog but limited DVR, channels for the price

Victory is fleeting in the fast-changing world of live TV streaming services. Hulu Plus Live TV spent a couple of months in 2020 as CNET’s most recommended premium service, but that brief reign ended when the company raised its prices to $65 per month. That price is the same as YouTube TV, which we like better overall for its superior cloud DVR and channel count. Hulu Live is still an excellent premium cord-cutter choice, however, especially if you like having “regular Hulu” built in for the same price.


  • Solid mix of channels
  • Full access to Hulu’s on-demand content
  • Fun interface and zippy guide

Don’t Like

  • Worse live channel selection than YouTube TV
  • DVR is quite limited without the $10 upgrade

At $6 a month, basic Hulu is one of the best deals in streaming, with gobs of current and past TV shows and movies. The hefty upgrade to Hulu Plus Live TV buys a healthy mix of live sports, news and local channels. That combination of live channels with Hulu’s deep on-demand catalog of network TV shows and original programming is something no other live TV service can match.

Things will inevitably change — they always do — but at the moment YouTube TV ($65 at YouTube TV) is the best service for the money while Hulu remains a solid second place choice for most viewers. If you want to save money though, you should opt for Sling TV Blue ($35).

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What do you get?

Hulu Plus Live TV expands upon the on-demand service with more than 60 live channels and throws in both a cloud DVR and program guide guide. Live TV is available via Hulu’s standard app on all the major platforms including computer browsers, iOS, Xbox OnePS4, Android, Apple TV ($180 at Best Buy), Fire TV ($34 at Amazon), Roku and Smart TV systems. 

Hulu’s channel count is solid but has a handful fewer major cable channels than YouTube TV and FuboTV. Important channels missing from Hulu include AMC, BBC America, MTV and Comedy Central, and every one of Hulu’s competitors offer these. Also, in late 2020 Hulu dropped many regional sports networks, which was a further blow for sports fans. Check the channel lineup at the end of the article, to see if the Hulu Plus Live TV’s mix is right for you.

Read more: NBA streaming: Best ways to watch the 2021 basketball season live online without cable

Like its live streaming competitors Hulu has had a number of price increases since it debuted and currently costs $65 a month. On top of this, 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 to 200 hours. But with the DVR add-on, this becomes the most expensive of all of the services at $75.

Premium live TV streaming services compared

Premium services YouTube TV AT&T TV Hulu Plus Live TV FuboTV
Base price $65/month $70/month $65/month $60/month
Total number of top 100 channels 75 61 62 65
ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC channels Yes Yes Yes Yes
Record shows for later (cloud DVR) Yes (keep for 9 months) Yes (20 hours, unlimited hours for $10/month) 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 Yes Yes Yes
Simultaneous streams per account 3 20  2 ($10 option for unlimited) 2 ($6 option for 3)

Many people see commercial skipping as a must-have for any DVR. 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. In short, if you’re a heavy DVR user save yourself some money and get YouTube TV.

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?


Ty Pendlebury/CNET

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 now grouped by type. On the main 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 was once one of the least usable in the category, but it’s also now eclipsed that of YouTube TV. The traditional grid offers guide data, which goes 14 days out, and scrolling through 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 though YT’s web interface offers seven days out, we found it painfully slow to navigate.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Recording to the Hulu DVR is a little bit of a pain — 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. Once there you need to either long-press the middle button (on Apple or Roku) or press the hamburger button and click record. Every other DVR-available service lets you record while you’re still watching a program. 

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. The interface is now a dressing on what was already a lovely window, especially with the zippy 14-day guide.

That said, for the same money YouTube 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 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. 

Top 100 channels compared

Channel Sling Blue ($35) Fubo TV ($60) YouTube TV ($65) Hulu with Live TV ($65) AT&T TV ($70)
Total channels: 38 65 75 62 61
ABC No Yes Yes Yes Yes
CBS No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fox Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
NBC Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
PBS No No Yes No No
CW No Yes Yes Yes Yes
MyNetworkTV No No Yes Yes Yes
Channel Sling Blue ($35) Fubo TV ($60) YouTube TV ($65) Hulu with Live TV ($65) AT&T TV ($70)
A&E Yes Yes No Yes Yes
ACC Network No $ Yes Yes $
AMC Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Animal Planet No Yes Yes Yes Yes
BBC America Yes Yes Yes No Yes
BBC World News $ $ Yes No $
BET Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Big Ten Network $ Yes Yes Yes $
Bloomberg TV Yes No No Yes Yes
Boomerang $ No No Yes Yes
Bravo Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Channel Sling Blue ($35) Fubo TV ($60) YouTube TV ($65) Hulu with Live TV ($65) AT&T TV ($70)
Cartoon Network Yes No Yes Yes Yes
CBS Sports Network No Yes Yes Yes $
Cheddar Yes Yes Yes Yes $
Cinemax No No $ $ $
CMT $ Yes Yes No Yes
CNBC $ Yes Yes Yes Yes
CNN Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Comedy Central Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Cooking Channel $ $ No $ $
Destination America $ $ No $ $
Discovery Channel Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Disney Channel No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Disney Junior No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Disney XD No Yes Yes Yes Yes
DIY $ $ No $ $
E! Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
EPIX $ No $ No $
ESPN No Yes Yes Yes Yes
ESPN 2 No Yes Yes Yes Yes
ESPNEWS No $ Yes Yes $
ESPNU No $ Yes Yes $
Channel Sling Blue ($35) Fubo TV ($60) YouTube TV ($65) Hulu with Live TV ($65) AT&T TV ($70)
Food Network Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fox Business $ Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fox News Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fox Sports 1 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fox Sports 2 $ Yes Yes Yes $
Freeform No Yes Yes Yes Yes
FX Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
FX Movies $ $ Yes Yes $
FXX $ Yes Yes Yes Yes
FYI $ Yes No Yes $
Golf Channel $ Yes Yes Yes $
Hallmark $ Yes No No Yes
HBO/HBO Max No No $ $ $
HGTV Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
History Yes Yes No Yes Yes
HLN Yes No Yes Yes Yes
IFC Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Investigation Discovery Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Lifetime Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Lifetime Movie Network $ Yes No Yes $
Channel Sling Blue ($35) Fubo TV ($60) YouTube TV ($65) Hulu with Live TV ($65) AT&T TV ($70)
MLB Network $ $ Yes No $
Motor Trend No Yes Yes Yes Yes
MSNBC Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
MTV $ Yes Yes No Yes
MTV2 $ $ No No Yes
National Geographic Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Nat Geo Wild $ $ Yes Yes $
NBA TV $ $ Yes No $
NBC Sports Network Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Newsy Yes $ Yes No No
NFL Network Yes Yes Yes No No
NFL Red Zone $ $ $ No No
NHL Network $ $ No No $
Nickelodeon No Yes Yes No Yes
Nick Jr. Yes Yes No No $
Nicktoons $ $ No No $
OWN No Yes Yes No $
Oxygen $ Yes Yes Yes $
Paramount Network $ Yes Yes No Yes
Channel Sling Blue ($35) Fubo TV ($60) YouTube TV ($65) Hulu with Live TV ($65) AT&T TV ($70)
Science $ $ No $ $
SEC Network No $ Yes Yes $
Showtime $ $ $ $ $
Smithsonian No Yes Yes Yes $
Starz $ No $ $ $
Sundance TV $ Yes Yes No Yes
Syfy Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Tastemade $ Yes Yes No $
TBS Yes No Yes Yes Yes
TCM $ No Yes Yes Yes
Telemundo No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Tennis Channel $ $ No No $
TLC Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
TNT Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Travel Channel Yes Yes Yes Yes $
TruTV Yes No Yes Yes Yes
TV Land $ Yes Yes No Yes
USA Network Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
VH1 $ Yes Yes No Yes
Vice Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Weather Channel No Yes No No $
WE tv $ Yes Yes No Yes