DISH offers a sweet three-year price guarantee and one of the best DVRs available, but picture quality is unreliable, and you’ll miss out on regional sports networks.
Hulu + Live TV has something for everyone to watch, including one of the best on-demand libraries we reviewed. It’s hard to use on the go, though, and its interface was confusing in our tests. You get great original content, but you can find lower prices and a more conventional viewing experience elsewhere.
DISH stands out in the satellite TV space for its straightforward billing and three-year price guarantee for new customers. The basic package starts at about the same price as DIRECTV’s lowest-tier package, but premium packages cost a lot less. You’ll pay a little less for cable TV compared to DISH in many parts of the country, but things like competition between carriers and available technologies lead to big geographic differences.
DISH has a lot to offer casual viewers, but you won’t have access to NFL SUNDAY TICKET or any 24/7 channels in 4K resolution like you would with DIRECTV. There might be occasional problems with the picture quality for live sports, but those issues are rare for movies and most TV shows. Compared to cable TV, DISH usually offers better picture quality and many more channels.
While DISH is a lot more straightforward than DIRECTV, there are a few fees that can sneak up on you, including a local broadcast fee. You can get out of that fee by finding another way to watch local channels, but be sure to read your bill carefully each month.
Hulu + Live TV has a lot to offer, including a huge library of on-demand content from the Classic Hulu service plus dozens of channels featuring news, entertainment, sports, and more. You can’t get PBS or Univision, but it’s a true replacement for cable TV.
Hulu + Live TV is the one of the most expensive live TV streaming services we reviewed at the starting tier, but just by a few dollars. The high cost starts to make sense when you realize it’s a bundle price. In addition to live TV, you get access to Hulu’s on-demand library ($7.99 per month with ads), Disney+ ($7.99 per month), and ESPN+ ($9.99 per month). That means you get Hulu originals, tons of live sports and events, and thousands of shows and movies.
You also get a ton of annoying, repetitive ads, especially when watching on demand. To get those removed, you would have to pay for an upgrade of about $7 per month. Even then, you would still see ads during live programming and on some on-demand shows. Ick.
DISH Hopper DVRs are fantastic, and they easily outshine the competition. The Hopper 2 is the standard model and comes with voice control, a Netflix app, and internal Wi-Fi. The Hopper Plus, released in 2022, is an add-on streaming box that lets you add thousands of streaming apps. With DIRECTV’s set top box, you miss out on the apps.
If you upgrade to the Hopper 3 or Hopper Plus with DISH, you’ll pay about $5 more each month. But you get a whole lot for the money. The super-powered DVRs can record up to 16 shows or games at once and save 500 hours of HD recordings. Plus, they're 4K-enabled and beam your DVR content straight to your smartphone or additional set-top boxes around the house so you can watch from anywhere. It also comes with more streaming apps than the basic version, plus built-in Bluetooth so you can watch with earbuds.
The Hopper 3 and Hopper Plus at extraordinarily powerful, but you won’t be able to use all the extra features if you don’t have high-speed internet. If you do, and you want to catch a metric ton of games and shows on your schedule, we think the extra monthly cost is worth it.
Hulu + Live TV shines when it comes to content. (1) You get access to most of your local channels and dozens of live options from popular cable networks. You also get access to the full on-demand libraries of Hulu, Disney+, and ESPN+. It’s a truly massive offering. However, it’s important to know what’s missing from the Hulu + Live TV lineup before you sign up because there’s no free trial.
In our tests, we couldn’t find the local networks PBS or Univision, both of which are available on YouTube TV. We also couldn’t get any Lifetime channels, Newsmax, the MLB Network, Vice, INSP, or Ion. However, we were pleased to find A&E, which is missing from the YouTube TV lineup. We also welcomed the addition of Hallmark channels in November of 2022.
The sports lineup is solid, too. You get ESPN channels, Fox Sports channels, TNT, and more. Things got a little worse when it came to Spanish-language channels. In addition to missing the local Univision network, Hulu is missing Galavision, TUDN, and UniMás, even if you pay for the Español add-on.
Hulu + Live TV is a nationwide service, but there are some geographic differences in what’s available. Find channels available in your area.
Lucky for you, the Hulu on-demand library is enormous. If you can’t find what you’re looking for live, you can still find a lot of the content from the missing channels in the streaming library.
DISH covers satellite antenna installation and DVR setup for what it calls “credit-qualified customers,” meaning customers who sign up for a two-year contract. Some competing cable companies charge closer to $100 for installation, so it’s nice to see both top satellite providers—DISH and DIRECTV—cover the initial setup.
Your standard monthly package price with DISH includes rental of one Hopper Duo DVR, but you’ll pay extra to add a wireless Joey receiver for other TVs or to upgrade to the Hopper 3. You will also pay extra for DISH Outdoors, a portable satellite antenna and receiver system you can mount on your truck or RV. If you already have DISH at home, the Outdoors setup doesn’t cost much more, making it a great option for camping or tailgate parties.
If you want to skip the Hoppers and Joeys altogether, you’ll need the Wally receiver and your own hard drive for recording shows. DIY DVR with DISH isn’t worth the hassle for most folks, but it is an option if you're tech-savvy and already own the equipment.
There’s also an option for people who don’t want the contract: Flex TV. You have to buy your DVR outright and pay for the installation out-of-pocket, but you can skip the credit check and pay for TV month to month.
Hulu + Live TV has most of the features you’d expect from a live streaming TV service, including unlimited DVR for nine months and the ability to stop and rewind live TV. You can record ongoing shows or future shows through the channel guide, or record entire programs.
It’s easy to create profiles for multiple users, and you can designate profiles for kids so they have access to only kids shows. That’s the only parental control option available, but we like that it’s set at the account level instead of the device level. You get only two simultaneous streams with the standard package, so you may not want to give the kiddos free rein anyhow.
We loved all the on-demand options, but have one major complaint: the ads. In our tests, the exact same ad aired several times per episode, as if it were designed to be annoying. If you pay extra, you can skip the ads on DVR content, but you’ll still see promotions for recommended content.
It gets worse. We tried to get around ads on live TV by recording the show and waiting a few minutes to start watching, then fast forwarding through the commercials. It works on YouTube TV and most cable TV services we reviewed, but with Hulu we still got blasted with ads every 20 minutes. The only way to skip them was to wait for the show to be over and watch the DVR version.
Gripes aside, we still rank Hulu + Live TV highly on features because of its sweet DVR and parental controls that outshine close competitor YouTube TV. If you’re particularly annoyed by ads, Hulu + Live TV may not be for you. But If you want to bundle live TV and on-demand in one service, it may be worth a shot.
DISH can’t compete with DIRECTV’s exclusive access to NFL SUNDAY TICKET and its growing list of options in 4K resolution. There are no regional sports networks, either. But you’ll pay a lot less for DISH (in both English and Spanish) and still get access to a wide variety of pro and college sports. The lowest-tier package includes five different ESPN channels and FOX Sports 1 HD, and you can add the Multi-Sport Pack plus your regional sports channel for about $25 per month. To catch the best pro basketball, hockey, and soccer games, you’ll need to upgrade to the second-tier package.
Where DISH lacks in NFL coverage and 4K sports, it shines in entertainment. A huge list of movies and shows is available at all pricing levels, and you can add even more by going up a tier. You can also add channels like Encore and EPIX for a monthly fee. Other add-ons cost a dollar or two more than they do with the competition, but you’ll still pay less overall. DISH wins points for having a user-friendly, sortable channel guide on its website, making it easy to choose the right package for your needs.
Hulu + Live TV feels like it was designed for on-demand streaming rather than live TV watching. It is possible to get to the channel guide for a standard surfing experience, but it took us a few minutes to find it in the mobile app. Finding channels to surf took even longer on the streaming devices and smart TVs we tested.
That said, Hulu is pretty good at guiding you toward what you’ve recently watched and offering up new content you might enjoy. In our tests, the on-demand experience was a lot better than the live TV experience. You can browse by format (TV, Movies, Sports) or search for a specific show or channel. We also liked the Hubs, which are curated collections based around a theme.
If your show is added to “My Stuff” and recorded, it’s easy to track. But if you record a show and forget to add it to “My Stuff,” it’s impossible to find. You don’t get notified when it’s ready, either.
We also ran into a little trouble trying to watch in different locations. We never got the service to work on a Safari browser, even when location tracking was enabled. If we were signed in on an Apple TV at home, we got locked out in the office. We get that Hulu doesn’t want users sharing passwords, but the experience was pretty frustrating.
If you have just one TV and have time to figure out the interface, Hulu + Live TV is a decent experience. But if you want to access the extensive library and channel surf away from home, this service is harder to recommend.