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.
Sling TV is one of the lowest-cost live TV streaming services we tested at just $40–$55 per month. Unfortunately, we found it hard to share its small channel lineup with the whole family. But if you’re looking for a live TV service just for you, Sling TV could be your match.
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.
Sling provides a good mix of channels, including a few sports, kids, lifestyle, and comedy channels. Compared to other services, it has fewer channels in its base packages, but it offers plenty of top channels as add-ons. Unfortunately, you’ll see very few local channels no matter how many packages you add to your plan.
Sling TV offers a solid channel lineup, but you’ll get just three local channels: NBC, Estrella, and Comet. That’s some of the worst local content we’ve seen, even for a streaming service—which typically have fewer local channels than cable TV plans.
Sling has about two-thirds of the top sports channels, which is lower than a lot of streaming services. To get them all, you’ll have to get both the Orange and Blue plans and the sports add-on. Otherwise, you’ll have to choose between ESPN (Orange) or FOX Sports, NFL Network, and NBC (Blue). You can get NBA TV, MLB TV, and NFL Network, though, so that’s a plus.
Family and education: 3/5
Sling has some great family friendly favorites like Discovery, National Geographic, History Channel, Animal Planet, Disney, and Nick Jr. But you’ll miss out on some staples like Nickelodeon and PBS, as well as Disney Junior, Smithsonian Channel, and Game Show Network.
News and politics: 3.5/5
With Sling you’ll get national and international news from MSNBC, Fox News, BBC America, Newsmax, HLN, and CNBC. However, because Sling doesn’t have many local channels, you won’t get much local news from channels like CBS, FOX, and The CW. And you’ll miss out on The Weather Channel too.
Entertainment and lifestyle: 3.5/5
Sling has a decent entertainment despite the fact that many local channels count toward this category, and Sling doesn’t have many of those. That means the rest of its entertainment lineup is better than most. You’ll get both the Cooking Channel and Food Network, even though most providers only give you one. It’s the same with other kinds of channels, too. You get both Comedy Central and Laff, all three Hallmark channels, both western channels—Grit and INSP—and all three music channels—MTV, CMT, and VH1.
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.
Sling is one of the cheapest live TV streaming services that still delivers a relatively comprehensive channel lineup, but its cost per channel of $1.15 is relatively high. Sling’s largest base plan includes just 43 channels, with an additional 30 or so available as add-ons. That makes Sling great at letting you customize your service, but you could end up paying a high price if you want a lot of channels.
Most add-ons cost about $6, or you can grab a bundle if you find one you like. The Sports Extra add-on is pricier at $11–15 per month. You can also add more than 40 premium packages, and many are priced lower than we’ve seen elsewhere.
Which channels you get depends on which plan you choose (and here’s where it gets a little confusing). Sling has three plans: Orange, Blue, and an Orange + Blue combo. The Orange and Blue plans each have a few channels in the same genre the other doesn’t, so be prepared to make some hard choices unless you spring for the combo plan. If you’re a sports fan, you’ll have to choose between ESPN (Orange) or FOX Sports, NFL Network, and NBC (Blue). If you have kids, you’ll have to choose between Disney Channel (Orange) or the Discovery Channel (Blue).
Unlike other streaming services, Sling TV has a free version. And this is no time-limited free trial that you forget to cancel until you see your credit card bill two months later. This is genuinely, indefinitely free—no credit card required. You can’t record shows with it, but it’s a great way to dip your toe into the cable-cutting waters at no cost.
Oddly, the free version of Sling gives you way more channels: 150+. But many of these extras are super specific—there’s a channel that plays The Carol Burnette Show 24/7, for example—or on-demand channels, which is cheating. But there are some gems, like Outside TV+, Bon Appetit, and CMT.
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.
Ability to watch: Good
The browser and app interfaces were generally easy to use, and Sling is compatible with a ton of devices. Sling says you can run it on just a 5 Mbps internet connection but recommends at least 25 Mbps. When we tested it, Sling was laggy on a cell signal connection, but that’s not uncommon. And when it comes to watching shows on the go, there are a few areas where Sling can improve.
If you’re looking for 4K content, you won’t find it here. Live content streams in 720p and on-demand content is 1080p.
Ability to record: Good
All Sling plans include 50 hours of cloud DVR storage, which isn’t much, especially if you want to share your plan with family or roommates. Adding DVR Plus for $5 will get you 200 hours and—we’re willing to bet—fewer fights over deleted shows. And you’ll get the ability to lock your favorite episodes so they aren’t automatically deleted to make room for new recordings if you go over the limit.
The DVR is a decent experience. You can record live shows and skip the commercials when you watch them later. It’s easy to record shows as you find them in the Guide, but starting a recording mid-show won’t record what you’ve missed. And you can’t use your phone to record a show that’s already started. The record button just isn’t there. Shows that you’ve already recorded pop up behind the DVR tab, along with how much storage you’ve used and your scheduled recordings. If you delete something you didn’t mean to (or Sling deleted a show to make room for new recordings), it’ll stay in the Trash section for 48 hours in case you want to reinstate it. We found that handy, especially if you don’t want to spring for extra DVR storage.
Ability to find: Fine
Finding shows could be easier. We had to click into a show to see its description, which was annoying. And the channel guide for live TV is a bit confusing if you have both Blue and Orange plans because you’ll see some channels—those included in both plans—listed twice.
With on-demand content, we sometimes had trouble picking shows back up if we’d started them and had to step away. Finding the “Continue watching” section on the home tab was hard because it kept moving. And when we switched back and forth between devices (like between the app on an Android phone and the Safari browser on a Mac laptop), Sling didn’t always remember where we were in a movie. Sometimes, this kind of switch stumped Sling completely, resulting in an error and Sling forgetting that we’d ever watched the show. That meant having to find our place again—and having to sit through commercial blocks we’d already watched.
Parental controls are PIN protected and easy to set up, and your kids won’t even be able to see descriptions of restricted content. But because Sling doesn’t have different user profiles, you’ll have to put in your PIN for every grown-up show you want to watch without the kiddos. You can’t even have separate settings for different devices.
Ability to share: Bad
Unlike most of the other live TV streaming services we’ve tried, you can’t make separate profiles for different users to watch, record, and save their favorite shows. That’s a bummer because figuring out how to stream multiple live shows at once is confusing. Sling TV decides how many streams you can have based on the channel you’re watching: Orange channels have just one stream and Blue channels have up to three.
If you have the Orange + Blue combo plan, you’ll see both Orange and Blue versions of some channels in your Guide, since these lineups have some overlap. One person can watch the Orange version of TNT, for example, but three people can watch the Blue version. If too many people start watching the same channel, someone will be kicked off about a minute later—but the offending viewer will never know they just ruined someone’s day because Sling doesn’t tell them.
Add it all up, and sharing a single Sling TV subscription with members of your household could cause more arguments than it's worth.
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.
Sling’s website is easy to navigate and shows plans and pricing upfront before you have to create an account or add a credit card. It also has a solid self-help section that you can find by scrolling to the bottom of the home page and clicking on the link in the footer.
Contacting customer service can be a little challenging. Agents are available via chat, social media, and phone for around 15 hours a day (depending on which contact method you choose). However, the website notes that you should expect long wait times for all avenues.
To help counter long wait times, Sling asks you to fill out a questionnaire before calling in, which is an okay idea in principle, but it asks for your email address. If you just want to know a few specifics before deciding whether to sign up, that feels invasive. But if you’re already a customer troubleshooting your technology or asking about billing issues, it’s not a big deal.
Finally, Sling TV’s channel lineup can be a little volatile. In October 2022, Sling lost ABC, ESPN, FX, Nat Geo, and Disney due to a dispute with Disney, but then got them back soon after. While other TV services were also affected, Sling seems more willing than competitors are to lose channels—at least temporarily—while renegotiating carriage deals.