Illustration for article titled Hulus Live TV Bundle Is a Worthy Cable Alternative
Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)

Hulu has come a long way since it rolled out its live TV offering back in 2017. Its early effort was good, though not perfect. But through a flurry of acquisition deals and with additional content offerings and bundle options, Hulu + Live TV has managed to make itself one of the most attractive non-cable options for cord-cutters at a semi-reasonable price (sans the add-ons).

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You might have several reasons for opting for a live TV streaming service like Hulu’s rather than to take the increasingly maligned cable route. Monthly cable costs vary. But a recent investigation by Consumer Reports found cable companies often price-gouge consumers for things like installation, local sports and broadcast coverage, equipment rental costs, and other company-imposed fees that often aren’t included in their advertised pricing. So there’s a clear advantage—at least from a price perspective—for considering the switch to streaming services with live TV options, such as YouTube TV (starting at $50 a month), Sling TV (starting at $30 a month), Philo ($20 a month), or even a free app like Pluto TV. Hulu + Live TV, which starts at $55 a month, is one of the better options.

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Hulu + Live TV launched three years ago with more of an emphasis on Hulu’s curated content and less of a focus on the live programming element. In a Gizmodo review of one of the earliest versions of the service, the interface was clean but could be frustrating to use. That’s no longer the case. I found that Hulu’s current UX is astonishingly easy to navigate, due in large part to Live TV filters introduced last year that include “My Channels,” “Recent,” “News,” “Movies,” and “Kids.” I love the ability to select channels of interest that are filtered for my specific user account, while News, Sports, and Movies offer a bird’s eye view of what’s currently on. You can stream from two devices simultaneously with the base package, or you can pay extra for unlimited streams ($10 per month).

We’ve griped about Hulu’s recommendation system before, but I found the current personalization worked well for me. Hulu’s service relies on both human and algorithmic curation for surfacing relevant shows or movies, and users have long been able to set their profiles up around specific content of interest to them. But Hulu’s recommendations were further improved upon last year after the company introduced like and dislike buttons, which allows you to better weed out content that you definitely aren’t interested in watching. The same applies for the “My Channels” section of Live TV.

Hulu’s live TV desktop app. Super easy to navigate, though Apple TV gives the best experience overall.
Hulu’s live TV desktop app. Super easy to navigate, though Apple TV gives the best experience overall.
Image: Gizmodo

The overall usability of both Live TV and Hulu has come a long way. Content is much easier to find with filters that help you cut through some of the noise, so you’re not stuck in never-ending channel-surfing hell. (Unless you’re into that kind of thing, in which case there’s a subsection for that, too, under “All.”) Hulu’s desktop, web, and mobile interfaces are straightforward and simple to use, though it’s a little crowded up top when vertical on iOS. Using the Hulu app on Apple TV offers the best experience of all the platforms, simply because the search functionality is so seamless and intuitive. I also found the interface to be a little less crowded, though your mileage may vary depending on your specific setup.

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Live TV comes standard with 50 hours of cloud storage, which can be upgraded to 200 hours for an additional monthly fee of $10. (If you package unlimited streams and extra storage, their combined price drops to $15.) That’s a far cry from YouTube TV’s unlimited recordings that are included free of charge in the service’s monthly subscription fee of $50. Hulu also doesn’t have the same level of customization for buffet-style curation as, say, Sling TV, which lets you pick and choose channel packages to build your own service—though it does have some additional channel add-ons. Hulu’s Live TV package does come standard with a pretty good mix of more than 65 live programming options, with local channels in some cities. This wouldn’t be the best option for, say, an avid sports fan. But if you’re looking for a little bit of everything streaming has to offer—meaning live television, high-quality on-demand movies and series, originals, accessibility across devices, and, of course, customizable bundles—it’s tough to top Hulu’s packages.

Illustration for article titled Hulus Live TV Bundle Is a Worthy Cable Alternative
Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)
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The standard Hulu + Live TV costs $55 per month after a seven-day trial. That tier includes ad-supported Hulu—meaning all of Hulu and its recently added haul of FX content—as well as the standard live television package (or you can pay $61 per month to go ad-free). If you want to bundle Disney’s built-in babysitter with your Live TV package, Hulu currently offers a Disney+ option—which includes ESPN+, according to a spokesperson—for $62 per month with Hulu ads or $68 per month with ad-free Hulu. And while that’s creeping up into the higher end of package pricing when it comes to rival live-streaming services, you’re essentially getting three streaming services in one.

Hulu also offers HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, or Starz for additional monthly costs of between $9 and $15, depending on which one you select—which again, is an additional cost on top of whatever streaming tier you select. But I’d argue that these are good options for people who want all of the basics of live TV plus high-quality programming. Hulu + Live TV is not, for example, what fuboTV is for sports fans or what Sling TV is for someone who wants a lot of live programming options. It’s perfect for someone like me, who doesn’t want to pay for a ton of services but would like to have some options with the service I do pay for, including live TV basics.

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Hulu’s standard live TV package.
Hulu’s standard live TV package.
Screenshot: Hulu

Hulu’s Live TV basic package is an easy-to-use service with a slightly higher price tag than other streaming services, but with more premium offerings than many other services that also offer live TV. Customization makes it easy to build a service that fulfills your individual needs, and the availability of Hulu on most major operating systems, consoles, and smart TVs makes it an attractive option. If you’re looking to pay for just one service, Hulu + Live TV is a pretty strong contender for the casual streamer and households with families.

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README

  • Hulu + Live TV’s standard tier is an attractive non-cable option for cord-cutters at a semi-reasonable price: $55 per month.
  • Hulu is intuitive, has an overall well-organized interface, and is widely available across devices.
  • Hulu’s available bundling with Disney+ and ESPN+, premium channels and on demand viewing, and customization make it a strong contender for someone looking to pay for a single service that meets a variety of needs.
  • The Disney+ package deal that starts at $62 per month is a pretty good deal that essentially gets you three services in one—including live TV.
  • That said, your monthly bill can get pretty pricey with each additional add-on. Don’t go overboard if you want to keep your subscription cost low.
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