After a year of testing, I determined Hulu + Live has improved enough since its release that it’s a now serviceable option if it has the channels you need.
Before you dive into this review, I suggest you read my introduction to live tv streaming.
- In Hulu’s early days, sports channels had a latency issue when the screen moved quickly. Sixty frames per second are critical for watching sports because otherwise, there’s a lag in action. Luckily, Hulu started rolling out 60fps on half of their channels, and it looks like more are coming.
- Hulu Live users reported lots of stream quality issues in the early days, and I experienced this too.
- In my recent month-long test, however, the streams worked well and I only had a couple of minor hiccups. I don’t rate the stream quality as highly as YouTube TV, but Hulu hammered out many of the kinks and stream quality shouldn’t factor into your decision in this case.
- You can pause TV, but once you do, you can’t fast forward. You’re stuck watching preloaded commercials. It’s a terrible experience. But for an additional $10/month, you can add “Enhanced Cloud DVR,” which allows you to pause when you want, then fast forward until you reach live.
- You get two simultaneous streams in the entry-level package. It’s an additional $10 for unlimited streams.
- Hulu has most of the regional sports channels, including YES Network for Yankees fans, but they don’t have all of the regional sports networks. Unfortunately for me, NESN isn’t an option.
- I get live versions of all of my local channels (CBS, FOX, ABC, NBC) and, in most cases, you should too.
- Like YouTube TV, Hulu Live is missing BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network, NFL Network, and VH1.
- AMC and MLB Network are the only major channels missing that YouTube TV has.
- You get “Hulu Limited Commercials” for free (this is the original Hulu that most people know of for $6/month).
- Hulu with Live TV is a different take on television. I admire the boldness. They use huge, eye-catching fonts and focus on getting content in front of you through a curation process, rather than just showing channel names. (Keep in mind, it’s not traditional, so it might take some getting used to).
- If you search Google for reviews, you’ll see Hulu users have universally hated the app since its redesign in 2017. It’s pleasing to look at but not easy to use.
- When Hulu Live launched, it didn’t have a guide, you couldn’t mark shows as played, and you’d so get deep in the threaded menus you can’t find your way out. Hulu made major adjustments in 2019. Now, your content is more customizable, and there’s a guide.
- Hulu Live has three main menus.
- The “Home” menu is the most confusing because there are over 15 submenus, but the first four of five are all you’ll need:
- “Hulu Picks” is the sub-menu Hulu opens with. It’s useless and just shows generic on-demand content that Hulu wants you to watch.
- “Live Now” shows you everything that’s currently on that they think you’ll like based on your previous viewing. I watch a lot of the Boston Celtics and each time they’re playing, it’s the top pick in my “Live Now” section.
- “Keep Watching” shows you your recordings or live shows that you haven’t finished watching yet.
- “My Channels” is easy access to live versions on your favorite channels, that were selected by you.
- The “Live” menu turns on the channel you last used. Then with one swipe up, you can find your guide.
- The “My Stuff” menu is where your on-demand and DVR recordings are stored.
- Hulu created a new take on the traditional guide. It’s not a grid style, but it works in the same manner. It’s the cleanest and most intuitive guide I’ve ever used.
- The guide can be viewed anytime you’re watching a show with a swipe up on the remote.
- There’s no superfluous information on the guide. It only shows you what’s on nowand if you want to see future programming, you can scroll right.
- The guide defaults to showing only your last ten channels watched. This removes clutter and makes things easier to navigate. You can view “All Channels” if you want to watch something outside of your ten recently used apps.
- There are clear green playback trackers to show to the show’s progress.
- Hulu Live has taken huge strides in improving their interface, but I’d love to see two improvements:
- An option to declutter by deleting or hiding certain menus.
- When you’re watching a channel and a show ends there’s a slight delay and reloading that happens before the new show loads. I think I know why this happens, but I think it can be fixed.
- Thumbnails while scrubbing through the timeline.
- There are push updates you can turn on to alert you when to watch a certain game. Let’s say a guy is in the 8th inning of a no-hitter in a game you wouldn’t usually care about. Hypothetically, Hulu would alert you, and with one tap you could watch the end of that game.
DVR & On-Demand (A+):
- With the entry-level $55/month package, you get 50 hours of DVR storage, but you can’t fast-forward commercials. You’ll get two sets of non-skippable three-minute ads for each 30-minute show.
- I can’t recommend buying Hulu Live with the standard package and the DVR category would get an “F” from me.
- But for an extra $10/month, with Enhanced Cloud DVR you get 200 hours of DVR storage, and you don’t have to watch commercials.
- Even better, commercials aren’t even recorded, so you don’t even need scrub through to find the right positioning. It’s fantastic.
- If DVR is your preferred method of watching network shows, the Enhanced Cloud DVR is a no-brainer.
- You can create up to six profiles, so each profile’s algorithmic suggestions and DVR recordings are individualized.
- Hulu is on Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast, Xbox, iPhone, iPad, and Android devices, and the app works well everywhere.
- You get a universal experience on all the apps. It’s perfectly synced and beautiful.
Quick Review (TL;DR)
- Stream: You can’t pause live TV or fast forward with the entry package. However, Hulu’s quality has vastly improved.
- Channels: Some regional sports channels are missing, along with AMC.
- Interface: The “Home” tab still gets confusing, but the “Live Now” and the new guide are dynamite.
- DVR: You get 50 hours of storage but can’t fast forward. For $10 more, you get 200 hours and commercials are automatically skipped.
- Devices: Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, Xbox One, Android, Fire TV, and iOS. Available on PlayStation 4.
Who is this for?
Hulu + Live TV is best for you if you want to record network shows without commercials ($65/month with Enhanced Cloud DVR). Hulu Live has come a long way since its inception and now has a brilliant guide and a more stable stream.