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.
YouTube TV is a refreshing option for cable or satellite TV cord cutters. It feels just like a traditional TV service, but without the hidden fees or equipment rental. Shows and games are easy to find and record, simultaneous streams are a breeze, and the interface felt familiar and intuitive on every device we tested.
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.
YouTube TV offers a well-rounded channel selection, ranging from sports and entertainment to news and network TV. We think YouTube TV is a good option if you want a classic live TV experience with a solid on-demand library, but we have a couple minor complaints.
YouTube TV carries almost all your local networks, unlike competitor Philo, and even offers PBS, unlike Hulu + Live TV. You even get multiple Spanish-language local channels with YouTube TV. However, you won’t find Antenna TV, and Estrella TV is available only as an add-on.
There are some things we love for sports fans with YouTube TV, and others we really dislike. Having the option to buy NFL Sunday Ticket is fantastic, with regular prices of $349–$389 per season for YouTube TV subscribers and $449-$489 if you just want the football and not live TV. (1) Beyond pig skins, we love that NBA TV and the Golf Channel are included with the base channel price. We also like that you get your local channels, TNT, USA Network, and more, and the sports add-on is nice for the price. It comes with NFL RedZone, live poker and billiards, OutsideTV+, and FOX Soccer. No MLB coverage is disappointing (2), and you’ll miss out on some regional major league games, even with the sports add-on. That said, you can watch and DVR games in 4K if you get the unlimited add-on for about $10 a month.
Family and education: 4/5
YouTube TV has a lot to offer for kids and anyone interested in using their screen time to learn about the world. You will miss out on favorites like Science and History, but you get multiple Disney and Nickelodeon options and a dedicated channel for PBS Kids. We also really like the Curiosity Stream add-on for educational documentaries and the Hopster Learning add-on for little kids.
News and politics: 4/5
You can find a lot of political commentary from both the left and the right on YouTube TV, but you won’t find Newsmax or Vice, or any C-SPAN channels (which are common with most traditional TV providers). There are nice options for international news, though, and we like that you can satisfy your appetite for local news in either Spanish or English. You might want to pick up a digital antenna, though, if you want to catch some niche broadcast favorites.
Entertainment and lifestyle: 3.5/5
YouTube TV can’t quite compete with traditional and satellite TV when it comes to movies, documentaries, and reality TV, but you still get dozens of options. There’s no A&E, Cooking Channel, and GAC (Great American Country), for example, and no Lifetime movies. SHOWTIME and STARZ are available, but only as add-ons. There’s also not much original programming to be found, but you can catch a couple nice options by jumping over to YouTube Premium (confoundingly, a separate subscription on a separate 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 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.
YouTube TV is an excellent choice for streaming live TV, and it all costs about what you’d pay for a mid-range subscription package from a cable or satellite TV provider (but without the hidden fees). The price is about average among the premium live TV services we tested. The only extra charge on your bill is local sales tax, but you’re going to find that with virtually every TV provider out there.
If you want add-ons like NFL Sunday Ticket, sports in 4K, or entertainment channels such as HBO, add-on pricing applies. But buying and canceling add-ons was pretty seamless in our tests, and many of the upgrades (like YouTube TV itself) come with free trials.
Starting in October of 2022, YouTube made it possible to get most of its add-ons without paying the full monthly price, either through YouTube TV or the separate Premium Channels feature on regular YouTube. The prices were a bit higher or the same as purchasing the services separately, but it's nice to watch them with a familiar app and just one bill.
We were a little bummed to discover that you still have to watch ads with a lot of the content, and you don’t get to skip ads on regular YouTube or YouTube Music, since YouTube Premium is a separate service, but we welcome the simplified pricing with open arms.
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.
YouTube TV comes with everything you expect from a live TV service: easy channel surfing via the Live option, video on-demand (VOD) and DVR in the Library, and access to live sports, events, and shows from the Home tab. Its English-language monthly subscription offers more than 100 channels. If you want content in Spanish only, your monthly price is less than half of the English-language price.
Ability to watch: Excellent
YouTube TV doesn’t come with an option for a dedicated remote, but you can buy a Chromecast with Google TV for about a third of the price of the DIRECTV STREAM box if you want a voice remote. If you spring for the 4K Plus add-on, you get unlimited streams at home and three away from home. If you have a device compatible with Dolby 5.1 surround sound, it will work nicely with YouTube TV.
We were less satisfied with the ads—you’ll see a lot of them on YouTube TV, and they’re quite noticeable if you’re switching from on-demand streaming apps like Netflix, HBO Max, or Amazon's Prime Video. You can fast forward through ads on your DVR content, and some shows don’t have any ads on the DVR version.
When you watch live, you get the same ads the channels show over the air. A few times in our tests, we even saw ad visuals on the screen hyper-imposed on top of what we were trying to watch. It wasn’t a dealbreaker, but it took us out of the viewing experience. You will need broadband internet to enjoy YouTube TV, but streaming a show or game in 4K requires only about 20 Mbps of bandwidth at any given time, so you don’t need to worry about paying for the fastest possible internet speeds.
Ability to record: Excellent
YouTube TV comes with unlimited cloud DVR, and your recordings are saved for nine months. You can pause, rewind, and fast forward on most (but not all) DVR recordings, and it’s pretty simple to add them to your library. Curiously, adding any episode means you’ll record every future episode of that program, even reruns. It’s not a huge deal, but it does mean your library can feel bloated in a hurry.
There were a few standout features, too. We loved the sports highlights and how you can watch only key plays until you catch up to the live broadcast, hide scores of games you haven’t watched, or watch in Fantasy Football or Stats mode.
January 2023 updates to the interface made navigating the library a little easier, and we look forward to more promised improvements.
Ability to find: Great
YouTube TV is owned by search giant Google, and it shows. Finding specific programs, channels, and even recommendations from a browser was a delight. In fact, logging in on a browser is the best way to rearrange your Live guide for channel surfing, and it’s the best way to manage your account. The desktop app and mobile app felt familiar and easy to use, but we were annoyed that we couldn’t turn the volume up very high.
The experience on the Samsung smart TV we tested wasn’t quite as seamless. To get to YouTube TV, you have to open the regular YouTube app and find the YouTube TV button at the bottom left. Once we were in, there was a nice option to verify the account on a smartphone rather than typing your secure password with the remote. We didn’t love the pause and rewind functionality on the smart TV, and we once had to turn everything off and restart because the screen went black.
We also tested YouTube TV on an Apple TV, and it worked pretty well. It wasn’t hidden within the regular YouTube app, which was nice, and controls worked better. The app experience was even better when we tested on the Chromecast with Google TV. The remote was small but easy to use, and the voice functionality was fantastic. Unfortunately, the button labeled YouTube on the remote goes to the regular YouTube app, not YouTube TV.
Ability to share: Great
One YouTube TV subscription comes with six seats, so you and up to five members of your family can have their own private Google profile. With the basic subscription, you can watch up to three simultaneous streams at once, or you can get unlimited streams at home with the Unlimited add-on for about $10 per month.
If we had a magic wand and could improve any feature of YouTube TV, it would be parental controls. If you’re an adult sharing the subscription with other adults, it’s nice that profiles are 100% private—that means other accounts can’t see your DVR, your watch history, or your search history. But if you’re a parent, it’s a little problematic. There is a setting that prevents particular devices from viewing anything beyond TV-G or PG, but it doesn’t apply to accounts (just devices), and it’s not password-protected. Using the Family Link controls may give you more options, but most of those seem to be for regular YouTube and YouTube Kids, not YouTube TV.
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.
If you’re accustomed to shopping online and familiar with how streaming services work, YouTube TV is very easy to use. The interface is fairly easy to navigate and there’s just one package rather than multiple tiers to choose from. However, add-on pricing can be a little hard to track down.
Fortunately, you can get a 21-day free trial of YouTube TV if you’re a new user, and most of the add-ons also have free trials. If you’re not 100% pleased, we love that everything is surprisingly easy to cancel. Reactivation is also a breeze—YouTube TV saves all your info forever, and even saves your DVR recordings for 21 days after you pull the plug.
YouTube TV is so easy to use, most users won’t miss out on a customer service telephone line or a live chat experience, but it’s worth noting that those channels are not available.