Hulu with Live TV Review

Hulu with Live TV Review

The skinny bundle market just got even more crowded. Hulu, the streaming video on demand service that is best known for competing with the likes of Netflix and Amazon, has waded into the skinny bundle market with a live TV service. Hulu with Live TV offers Hulu subscribers exactly what the name suggests: live streaming TV networks, which puts the company in competition with skinny bundle veterans like Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW. Hulu with Live TV is still in beta, but we took an early look at the fledgling service to see how it stacks up against its more established competition. Here’s our Hulu with Live TV review.

 

Hulu with Live TV review

User experience

Hulu with Live TV has a pretty elegant app, which is good – but it also has its own app, which is bad. Hulu puts its two services side-by-side on its website, so I don’t understand why they couldn’t have integrated this new functionality into their existing app. You can watch on-demand content on the new app, so you don’t really need the old one. I’m not sure why the old one is still around.

Hulu with Live TV review - app

The Hulu with Live TV app is simple, elegant, and – of course – very much a fan of Hulu’s own content (screenshot from iOS).

With that said, the new app is really nice. It’s elegant and easy to navigate, and it offers a ton of options for content discovery. You can choose a program from the customized “lineup” (swipe up on mobile to move between full-panel suggestions), save programming to the “My Stuff” tab, choose on-demand content, or search. Live TV is under the same tab as the on-demand content, which is a little odd (why not give it its own tab?), but not a big deal.

Hulu with Live TV review - customize

Customizing suggestions on iOS

Hulu has some nice user-friendly features, including some custom content discovery that is based on your responses when you first open the app (you can choose favorite genres, channels, and shows). There’s also a DVR which, unfortunately, will cost you extra – more on that in the pricing section of this Hulu with Live TV review.

 

Content

Hulu with Live TV review - channel lineup

While different skinny bundles organize their channels differently, there has never been a ton of daylight between the main competitors in terms of numbers and quality of channels. The usual suspects appear in pretty much all skinny bundles: ESPN/Disney networks, Viacom networks (though PlayStation Vue recently lost those), AMC networks, and the like.

Unfortunately, Hulu with Live TV has broken this trend. It arrives on the scene with some very noticeable holes in its channel lineup.

Hulu’s new service is missing Viacom channels, and there is reportedly no plan to add them soon. That means no MTV and no Comedy Central, among others. Also missing are Discovery Communications (Discovery Channel, among others) and AMC Networks (AMC, of course, among others).

You can add Showtime as an extra, but fans of HBO and Starz are out of luck.

Like other skinny bundles, Hulu offers local broadcasts of the four major networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC) in select markets. But Hulu’s local broadcast markets are far fewer than other skinny bundles’ – right now it’s just New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco.

The good news is that Hulu with Live TV does offer Fox properties (Fox, FX, FS1, and others) Disney properties (ESPN, Freeform, Disney Channel, and others), NBC properties (NBC, Golf Channel, NBCSN, and others), plus channels from A&E Networks, Turner, Scripps, and CBS. Some regional sports networks are available in select areas, bolstering a pretty solid sports channel lineup. All told, there are over 50 channels in the lineup.

Overall, though, Hulu with Live TV’s lineup compares unfavorably to what’s already on the market.

 

Streaming quality

In my trials, Hulu with Live TV streamed extremely well. It was smooth and in consistent HD, and channels loaded pretty quickly – more quickly, in fact, than I’d expect of the competition. This was true on Wi-Fi and only slightly less true on my mobile network, which was very impressive. It’s a shame there weren’t more great channels to watch in this crisp HD.

 

Platforms

Platform support for Hulu with Live TV is a little weak at the moment. iOS, Android, and Apple TV apps are already live, and you can use Chromecast with the mobile apps, but fans of Roku, Fire TV, and other devices are out of luck for now. Those apps, along with much-needed Windows and Mac apps, are promised soon.

 

How much does Hulu with Live TV cost?

Hulu with Live TV will set you back $39.99/month. That’s for 50+ channels. On a per-channel basis, this service is pricier than any of its competitors. DIRECTV NOW’s cheapest plan is $35 and comes with 60+ channels instead of 50+; Sling TV and PlayStation Vue are also cheaper on a per-channel basis.

Hulu with Live TV will give you a DVR if you pay extra, but PlayStation Vue includes this with the regular price, as does Sling TV (for users in the feature’s beta testing program).

 

Verdict

The skinny bundle is the most-cable like alternative to traditional pay TV, and its relatively low price point makes it an ideal option for cord cutters who don’t want to go without live TV. There’s plenty of room in this market for a lot of healthy competition, so there’s nothing wrong with Hulu entering the fray a little late.

But Hulu with Live TV isn’t just a day late – it’s also a dollar short. Hulu’s service is missing features and content that come standard with the competition. In a market with at least three strong contenders, Hulu has arrived offering a service that charges more and offers less. It’s easy to see why Hulu felt it needed a skinny bundle service, but it’s very hard to see why customers would need what Hulu came up with.

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About the Author

Stephen Lovely
Stephen Lovely

Stephen Lovely is a freelance writer and a longtime cord cutter with a passion for technology and entertainment. You can find his work on Cordcutting.com and his tweets at @stephenlovely.

8 Comments on "Hulu with Live TV Review"

  1. I am in the process of cutting the cord. I do not yet subscribe to any of the six providers not available, and I am looking for advice and assistance. But this review is inane.

    It isn’t just how many channels you get. It’s **which** channels you get. Other services have a problem with Viacom, so holding that against Hulu is silly. The AMC lack is a more trenchant critique. You are simply in error in regard to DVR service for both Hulu and Sling. Offering HBO isn’t that big a deal — it’s called HBO Now.

    But Hulu has sports. The number one reason most cable subscribers I know hesitate to cut the cord is live sports. If you aren’t a sports fan (and the writer plainly is not, given his complete lack of attention to it), this may not make sense. But sports is king in the U.S. Look at the ratings, especially for the NFL, but also for the NBA playoffs or March Madness.

    Hulu has all the sports channels I could want, but for less money than anyone else. Sling’s offerings stink for sports fans. Reviewers keep writing about how cheap their basic package is, but the sports offerings are laughable. DirectTV requires a hefty chunk of change out of my pocket before it offers adequate sports coverage. PlayStation Vue was far, far out in front of everyone else till they increased their rates a few days ago, and even then their DVR service is better than Hulu’s. YouTube is not available in enough markets to be worth discussion. Fubo TV doesn’t have ESPN!

  2. Thanks so much for your reviews. I have cut the cable for economic reasons, not realizing that MSNBC is not included with my Roku and Hulu. I’m into my second week of the trial period. Can you suggest the cheapest way to add MSNBC? Sports is not a factor for this 84 year old widow. The advertising is also not a problem for me.

    • Take a look at Sling TV packages. Think this will be the one I’m going to use. I am not a sports enthusiast, so their lack of channels for this allows me other channels I would probably not get.

    • MSNBC is listed as one of the Hulu channels.

  3. I live in central Florida and my Hulu Live keeps buffering too much for my liking. I don’t like the large icons. I’ll keep Hulu live for a month to see if the buffering gets better. If not, I’ll go back to PS Vue.

  4. It is important to keep in mind that the price of Hulu also includes the Hulu on demand streaming service that has been competing with the likes of Netflix and Amazon for years. The strength of this on demand service has historically been current television, often becoming available the day after air. Of late Hulu has been adding strong original contact, a greater selection of films and prior seasons. The current television would significantly negate need for DVR as much of what you might record would be available on demand. With all of this in mind, Hulu is a more than viable contender.

  5. As a note, the $39.99 price includes Hulu’s on-demand content, which is priced stand-alone at $7.99. For those who already subscribe to Hulu’s on-demand service, Live TV is $32 more.

  6. Jason Marshall | November 17, 2017 at 3:28 am | Reply

    So far Hulu is terrible. It frequently pauses and literally stopped in the last 10 seconds of a game. It’s horrible. The interface is extremely hard to use and you never know if you’ve actually scheduled your shows because there’s no automatic setting that I could find. Save your money, use another service. Hulu sucks!

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