Streaming cable replacements are becoming a much more appealing option for cable cutters across the board, with more choices available than ever before. Hulu’s Live TV option is a relative newcomer to the scene, but is it worth it?
What is Hulu with Live TV?
Essentially, this is Hulu’s way of competing with companies like Sling by tacking live TV on top of its existing service.
Hulu with Live TV bundles live TV service with its base streaming package. That means you get full access to Hulu’s streaming catalog (with “limited commercials”). That in itself may make it one of the more enticing options for people who already subscribe to Hulu’s service, as it saves the trouble of having to pay for multiple streaming plans.
The one thing to note here, however, is that Live TV isn’t yet available on all devices that have access to Hulu’s other streaming plans. For example, while there is a Hulu app for Android TV, it doesn’t yet support Live TV. Here’s a list of the devices that currently have access to Hulu with Live TV:
- Android Phones/Tablets
- Fire TV/Stick
- Apple TV (4th Gen)
- Xbox One/360
- Select Samsung TV models
That last one is a bit ambiguous, so you’ll have to do a bit more research for your specific TV model if you’re looking for Live TV support. Otherwise, Hulu says that “more devices [are] coming soon,” so if you don’t see your platform here, maybe one day it will be.
Unlike other streaming platforms, Hulu takes a one-and-done approach to packages: it offers a single package, and that’s what you get. It includes a variety of popular channels, though the lineup does vary from region to region. To get a list of all available channels for your area, head to Hulu’s Live TV page.
Since Hulu with Live TV only offers one package option, there’s only one price: $39.99/month. Considering it also includes Hulu’s “limited commercial” streaming package—which costs $7.99 on its own—that’s not a bad price. And by the way, you can get a Live TV Only plan without the streaming package, but it’s only a dollar less at $38.99.
There are also optional add-ons:
- No Commercial plan for streaming package only ($4/month)
- HBO ($4.99 for the first 6 months, 14.99/month after)
- Cinemax ($9.99/month)
- Showtime ($8.99/month)
- An Enhanced DVR Service that ups the storage from 50 hours to 200 hours ($14.99/month)
- Increase simultaneous streams from two to unlimited ($14.99/month). Keep in mind, however, that this one only applies to “home” screens—TVs and such—and limits mobile usage to three simultaneous streams.
How Hulu with Live TV Works
The pricing scheme seems pretty competitive for everything Hulu with Live TV offers, but that’s a moot point if the service isn’t very good.
And here’s the thing: Hulu with Live TV is just…not very good. But it’s not that the streaming quality is bad—it’s the interface. It is positively the worst streaming interface I’ve ever personally seen or been forced to used. It’s awful.
What makes it so bad? First off, it’s completely nonintuitive—trying to find your Live TV channels is just confusing. They’re housed under a My Channels tab in the primary Hulu interface, which doesn’t indicate that this is live TV at all (to me, at least).
This is a vertical list of channels, and the name My Channels suggests that it’s a list of favorite channels. But it never offered an option for me to choose my favorites, so it just threw every single channel into this list. That is objectively the worst possible way to handle a “favorites” list, if that’s even what this is, which is never made clear.
To get to everything that’s on, you have to scroll all the way to the bottom of said stupid list and click the “More Networks” option. This then shows everything that’s on right that second.
And that’s all you get: no grid view, no channel lineup view, no option to see what’s coming on later. Just what’s on right now—at least in this part of the interface.
You do have the option to see what’s coming up, but only on a per-channel basis. To get to that, you have to jump from the Live tab to one of the other applicable tabs: Entertainment, Sports, Kids, News, A-Z, or On-Demand Only (which obviously has nothing to do with live TV).
Once you’ve figured out which category you want to watch, you’ll get a list of channels in said category. You then have to select a channel to see what’s on and what’s coming up.
Note: On some devices, like Fire TV, you can click the menu button on the Live view to jump straight to that channel’s “guide.”
So, just to make that clear, you’re now three menus deep to find general information that literally every live TV streaming platform on the planet shows on the main screen. It’s seriously unimaginable how this interface was even presented as a good idea before who knows how many hours went into its development. Mind boggling.
And if you want to see what’s on other channels, you have to back out of the channel menu you’re currently looking at, navigate to another channel, and repeat for each channel you want to check out. It makes trying to find something worth watching an exhausting experience, which is not what anyone is looking for when it comes to TV. This is supposed to relaxing.
Oh, and when I tried to look at the A-Z menu to see a list of all the channels, it stopped at C. Cool.
Honestly, it’s so hard to get past the absolutely awful interface, it’s really hard to even talk about the rest of the service. Once you find something to watch, the streaming quality is fine. Pause and playback works. At least that happens as expected.
When it comes to using the DVR, there isn’t a clear label that reads “Record” like you might expect. Nope, you have to click on a button that reads “Add to my stuff.” And when you do that, that same button immediately changes to “Stop recording.” I guess once you know, you know, but again, that’s just not intuitive. At all.
Speaking of “My Stuff,” this is pretty much the holding pen for all your favorite things. Shows, networks, recorded programs, movies, sports, and teams are all found under this section. It kind of makes sense to put all this under “My stuff,” but that just doesn’t feel like a granular enough approach. Most people just aren’t going to “get it.”
So, Can Hulu with Live TV Replace Your Existing Service?
Sure, if you’re a glutton for punishment.
Look, once you get used to the (awful) interface, maybe you can learn to deal with it. Maybe having one service that you can get more out of is the most important thing to you, which is understandable. The only perk Hulu’s Live TV package has going for it is the addition of its on-demand package along with live TV, which you can’t get from competing services.
But if that’s not enough to sway you (and honestly, it shouldn’t be), then you should look elsewhere—at least until Hulu recognizes what a disaster its interface truly is and fixes it.
Good luck waiting on that to happen.