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.
WOW! (short for Wide Open West) offers a compelling case for switching to internet-based TV. You get a solid channel lineup at a great rate, all using top-notch Wi-Fi gear from eero—provided you’re willing to have a chillier relationship with your DVR and you don’t mind beta-testing the WOW! tv+ app.
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.
With WOW! tv+, you can watch live TV or on-demand content, record your favorite shows, and use streaming apps like Netflix—all over WOW!’s Wi-Fi. You need to order a WOW! internet plan with a speed of at least 100 Mbps (which is inexpensive) and at least one WOW! tv+ box (which is included in most plans).
Most of WOW!’s channel lineups are decent. The Small TV plan has only 30 basic channels, but you get 120+ channels with a Medium plan and 185+ channels with a Large plan, plus 50 Music Choice channels. (1) You won’t get any premium channels (you have to add those separately), but with a Large plan, you get more sports (NFL Network and NFL Red Zone), music (CMT and MTV), and kids’ channels (all the Nickelodeons). At around $10 per month more, it’s definitely worth considering.
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.
The WOW! tv+ box and remote are pretty standard, and you can find content and set up DVR recordings using voice commands or navigating through a guide. The downside is that all three of WOW!’s plans come with 50 hours of DVR cloud storage, which is pretty low. You can jump up to 100 (for about $20 per month) or 200 (for about $30 per month) hours, but that’s a steep charge when some competitors include 1,000 hours in their top-tier plans.
The best way to use the WOW! tv+ app is with an Amazon Firestick. Its Android and iOS apps are in beta, which means they’re still working out some of the kinks. The apps have a pretty low rating on both Android and iOS (2, 3), which is a bummer. If you end up throwing your phone across the room in frustration, you can circumvent the app altogether by going to an individual channel’s website and logging in with your WOW! credentials. But you might still end up frustrated—and watching your shows through a cracked phone screen.
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.
Since WOW! tv+ uses WOW! Internet, you need Wi-Fi gear. WOW!’s modem is free for your first year ($14/month after that), and its eero Wi-Fi system ($9.99 per month) is reasonably priced to rent. It’s also some of the best, most reliable Wi-Fi gear we’ve seen. WOW!’s TV boxes can get pricey if you want more than one ($10 per month), but since you can use WOW! tv+ with Amazon Firesticks, you shouldn’t need more than one box to get your shows on multiple TVs. You just need multiple Firesticks ($29.99 and up), but these will be one-time purchases instead of a monthly rental rate.
Self-setup is free and fairly easy, but you can hire a pro to come by and get you set up for $75.
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.
WOW! tv+ doesn’t include premium channels in any of its plans, but you can add them to a Medium or Large plan for $11–$19 per month. We’ve seen STARZ and Cinemax for as little as $5 per month with some providers, so we’re a little bummed about WOW!’s pricing, but it’s not a deal-breaker.
When it comes to sports channels, you win some and lose some. You get the Tennis Channel in a Medium plan, whereas some providers only include it in their top-tier plans. NFL Network and NFL RedZone are both included in the Large plan, which is hit or miss among competitors. However, WOW! tv+ strikes out completely when it comes to the MLB channel, and there’s no way to get NFL SUNDAY TICKET.