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 a bit confusing in our tests. You get great original content, but you can find lower prices and a more conventional viewing experience elsewhere.
Philo is a great value if you love feel-good movies, reality TV, and shows about home and family, but you’ll miss out on sports, news, and local channels. We put it to the test on browsers, phones, and streaming sticks, and we think it’s a fair contender for the softer side of live TV.
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.
Hulu + Live TV gives you access to about half of the local channels you would get from a digital antenna or traditional TV provider, but those channels are the most popular of the standard local options. You get ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, and The CW in most markets, for instance, but not PBS, Antenna TV, Estrella TV, or Univision. There are probably better live TV options for most Spanish speakers, but Hulu + Live TV isn’t bad if you just want your local news, sports, and primetime favorites in English. Hulu + Live TV is a nationwide service, but there are some geographic differences in the lineup. Find channels available in your area.
Hulu + Live TV is so-so when it comes to sports. There’s no NBA TV or MLB coverage, but you do get ESPN, TNT, Fox Sports 1, and the Golf Channel, plus local channels (which often show big national games). There’s no way to get NFL SUNDAY TICKET (now available only from YouTube TV), and you’ll miss out on all the regional sports networks you could get with DIRECTV STREAM or many traditional cable TV providers.
Family and education: 3/5
If you have kiddos in the house, Hulu + Live TV should have plenty of shows and channels to keep them entertained. You get three Disney channels, two Nickelodeon channels, and Universal Kids channel. However, there’s no PBS. There are also some notable educational channels missing from the lineup, including Family Entertainment TV (FETV) and Heroes & Icons.
News and politics: 3/5
You get all your news heavy hitters with Hulu + Live TV, including local news, national news from both the left and right, and financial news. You won’t find Newsmax or any C-SPAN options, though, and you’ll have to pony up for the Español Add-on for news, weather, and sports in Spanish at a cost of about $5 per month.
Entertainment and lifestyle: 4/5
You get about half of America’s Top 100 channels to watch live with Hulu + Live TV, but the provider earns extra points for having a stellar on-demand library on top of its live TV offering. That said, you’ll miss out on goodies like Ion and INSP, and you’ll have to get the Entertainment add-on ($8 per month) for Discovery Channels, MTV Classic, Crime+Investigation, and BET Her. You can also get HBO MAX, CINEMAX, SHOWTIME, and STARZ, but additional pricing of between $9 to $15 each applies every month.
If you love home renovation shows, feel-good movies, and reality TV, Philo has a channel lineup you’ll love. But you won’t find sports, local channels, or news.
Philo doesn’t offer any local channels, so that means no local news, no primetime favorites, no local sports, and no awards shows. If you want this programming, we recommend checking out live TV streaming options YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV or a traditional TV provider like your local cable company or satellite TV providers DISH or DIRECTV.
Like with local channels, Philo doesn’t offer any sports coverage. You can catch some sports content on ESPN+ or get a decent variety on services like Fubo or Sling TV. If you want to catch every NFL game, you could even try the NFL Sunday Ticket premium channel from YouTube.
Family and education: 2/5
Where Philo is a poor choice for sports and news, it’s a great choice for families and kids. You get multiple channels from Discovery with the base package price, plus Animal Planet, Great American Family, Family Entertainment TV (FETV), three Nickelodeon channels, Story Television, and Science. There’s no Disney, Cartoon Network, or PBS, but we love that Philo makes it easy to access free programming from services including Crackle, Cheddar News, Gusto TV, and RetroCrush, the new station featuring classic anime hits.
News and politics: 0/5
While you can technically catch BBC America and BBC World News on Philo, there’s virtually none of the news or analysis you would expect from traditional TV. There’s not even Late Night Tonight, and no 60 Minutes or PBS Newshour. You don’t get Fox News, MSNBC, HBO, or CNN either, and we didn’t happen upon any foreign-language news programming in our tests.
Entertainment and lifestyle: 2.5/5
Philo does better—a lot better—when it comes to stories, movies, and inspirational shows. You get all the Hallmark and Lifetime channels before add-on pricing, plus A&E and the up-and-coming INSP channel. We also found shows from TV’s rich past, including I Love Lucy, Father Knows Best, Matlock, Doctor Who, and even Touched by an Angel. There’s a strong selection of shows about the Black experience, too, including Rasheeda Frost's Boss Moves and much more. Even better, you get to choose from four different MTV channels before add-ons.
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 feels like 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.
Cleverly named after the inventor of the television, Philo is one of the cheapest live TV options we tested. It’s a great value for limited live TV and an endless array of movies, entertainment, and lifestyle shows. There are other add-ons, but even if you pay for them all, you’ll still pay less than most of the other live TV services we reviewed. You’ll also find more than 60,000 shows in the on-demand library, but it’s hard to recommend Philo for most cord cutters.
The service stays super cheap by skipping local channels, sports, national news, and many of the most popular national networks. (1) You’re also locked out of recently aired entertainment from PBS, NBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox. A digital antenna is an easy workaround, but you’ll need a separate DVR if you want to save the content to watch later. You could sign up for on-demand streaming apps to make up the difference, but prices add up quickly.
It’s not great, but there is a silver lining. Philo comes with a free trial and is easy to cancel online, so you can sign up for just a month or two whenever you’re in the mood for all the movies and programming it offers. It’s also a nice option for subscription hopping, if you can remember to cancel within a few months.
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. We loved all the on-demand options but have one major complaint: the ads.
Ability to watch: Good
Hulu + Live TV feels like it was designed for on-demand streaming rather than live TV watching. You can watch in 1080p on traditional TVs, mobile devices, browsers, or streaming sticks. In our tests, it worked well on some browsers, but we had minor issues with either casting or resizing with the Amazon Firestick, iOS phone, and both Safari and Chrome browsers.
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. Once we got set up on a particular device and got used to the interface, though, the experience felt pretty standard.
The biggest downside is that you 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.
Ability to record: Great
We like that Hulu + Live TV’s DVR is unlimited and saves recordings for up to nine months. You can record ongoing shows or future shows through the channel guide, or record entire programs. You can watch offline, which is cool, and you can set recordings or download certain episodes for offline viewing from any device with the app. However, you can’t DVR anything from premium channels or the on-demand library, and you can’t skip certain promotions even if you pay for the highest possible package.
In our tests, the exact same ad aired several times per episode, as if it were designed to be annoying. 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. If you pay extra, you can skip the ads on DVR content, but you’ll still see promotions for recommended content.
Ability to find: Great
We’ve heard multiple users complain that the Hulu interface is confusing, but once you get used to it, it’s fairly easy to find whatever you’re trying to watch. The search tools are easy to find and work well, and you have a choice of views for finding your favorites.
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.
That said, we really like the Hulu recommendation engine at any service level, and we like that you can easily get to the next episode on a show you’re watching (even if you’ve watched the whole series before).
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.
Ability to share: Fine
Hulu has cracked down on password sharing among multiple households, and it shows. It’s easy to create profiles for up to six users, but you get only two simultaneous streams with the standard package. You can pay more for unlimited screens, but you may not be able to watch away from home.
In our testing, we 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 are just sharing with family, it’s easy to 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.
Philo is pleasant on a day-to-day basis, and works better than some of its higher-priced competitors. There's no 4K, though, and we found some platform-specific quirks.
Ability to watch: Good
We tested the Philo interface on iOS and Android mobile phones, a few different web browsers, and an Apple TV. The interface was similar across devices, and the setup was one of the simplest among all the live TV streaming services we tested. After we entered payment info, we got right into the guide. The original browser saved our login info. Signing in later on different browsers and apps required two-step verification using a mobile phone number or email address, but we never had to enter (or remember) a password.
We didn’t run into any issues when we tried multiple devices and browsers from different locations, which was a refreshing change from services like Hulu + Live TV, which tracks your IP address. Unfortunately, there is no way to watch in 4K—Philo maxes out at 1080p resolution no matter how you’re watching.
The viewing experience is about what you’d expect from a live TV provider, but with some oddities. Watching live, the only way to skip commercials is to record the episode in progress, wait several minutes, and skip ahead whenever the commercials come on. You can also fast forward through most commercials on DVR content, and some channels let you skip ads with one click on Roku streaming devices.
We ran into some buffering issues with Philo on the Apple TV we tested, particularly with the channel guide. It happened on different devices in multiple locations, so we’re pretty sure it wasn’t a bandwidth issue. The slow loading wasn’t a dealbreaker, but we can see how channel surfers would be annoyed.
Ability to record: Excellent
The DVR and on-demand experiences with Philo were pretty par for the course in our tests, and Philo recently upgraded its cloud DVR to save recordings for up to a year. We are impressed that you get three extra months to watch your recordings, compared to competitors Hulu + Live TV and YouTube TV, which give you only nine months. Unlimited recordings is also pretty sweet, and we liked Philo’s 72-hour Rewind feature. You can use it to watch almost anything that’s aired in the last 72 hours, even if you forgot to add it to your library before it aired.
To get the most out of Philo, we recommend spending some time in the beginning to find and add your favorite shows. Within a few days, your Saved library will fill up with dozens of episodes to choose from.
Ability to find: Good
When you get to the Home screen on Philo, you’ll find a roundup of trending live and recommended shows, plus top movies and other categories. You can see whether a show is available on demand by clicking through to the episode description or by hovering your mouse over a particular episode, but there’s no way to tell at the series level. However, you can favorite shows at either the episode or series level, and saving a series means all future episodes will be recorded in your Saved library. You can also favorite channels, and that makes them show up first in the channel guide. It’s fairly simple to unfavorite, and the changes appear across devices instantly.
The channel guide itself is less impressive. Channel numbers aren’t listed (just logos) and you have to click into a program to get additional preview info. It works, but there aren’t a lot of bells and whistles to rave about.
Ability to share: Good
Philo offers many of the features you’d expect from a modern live TV streaming service. In our tests, it was easy to create profiles for different viewers, and the DVR libraries and favorites were kept separate. You can add up to 10 profiles and assign each a separate mobile phone number, so different users can sign in using their personal phones. However, there were no parental controls to be found.
You can watch Philo on up to three screens at a time, without a lot of verification or hassle.
There’s no free trial for the live TV package with Hulu, but we like that the service is easy to upgrade, downgrade, or cancel. You can do it all online, and your access to content will continue through the end of the time period you’ve already paid for.
It’s not a deal breaker, but we also wish the different packages were easier to understand. You can choose from the following: just the Hulu streaming library with ads for the lowest price; just the library with no ads for another price; live TV plus the streaming stuff for a third price (that’s the plan we use for our calculations); or live TV plus streaming without ads for yet another price. It feels a little silly, and add-on prices that are relatively hidden are also a bummer.
It’s nice that you can cancel or change your plan easily, though, and we like that there are no contracts or hidden fees to worry about. It’s a refreshing change from what you’ll find with most classic TV providers.
Philo makes it easy to sign up for the service, easy to sign in on different devices, and easy to cancel if you so choose. It’s also fairly simple to find and understand add-on pricing, and we love that the free trial lasts a full seven days even if you cancel midway through.
If you run into trouble, there’s a nice Help Center, a chat line, or a phone number to call. In this category, we believe Philo’s perfect score is well-deserved.