Our Review: Hulu and Live TV - Is it Worth Your Money?

By Derek Lakin
HighYa Staff Updated on: Jun 27, 2017

In business since 2008, Hulu is an online video subscription service that allows you to instantly watch current and back season shows from ABC, Comedy Central, The CW, FOX, NBC, MTV, and Univision, on almost any Internet-connected device. As such, Hulu calls themselves the "premium streaming destination."

In addition to TV-centric content, though, Hulu also offers a variety of full-length movies, original series, documentaries, kid’s choices, individual clips, and film trailers. And with their new Live TV service, you’ll be able to watch 50+ live channels—including sports—and record to a cloud DVR, while maintaining your access to their extensive on-demand library.

But when it comes down to it, what benefits will Hulu provide? Is it worth your hard-earned money? And how do they stack up against the stiff competition? Let’s start by taking a look at their two main services:

What’s the Difference Between Basic Hulu & Hulu with Live TV?

Other than their prices (which we’ll discuss in a moment), the primary differences between Hulu and Hulu with Live TV are the amount of content you’ll have access to, along with the devices you can view it on. Quickly, here’s how it breaks down:

Hulu’s Basic Plan – Unlimited access to the entire library, including movies, original series and shows, and kid’s programming. You’ll have the ability to switch plans or cancel at any time.

Add-ons include the ability to minimize (and even eliminate in many instances) commercials, as well as gain access to SHOWTIME® premium content.

However, keep in mind that this add-on is in addition to what you already pay your cable service. In other words, you'll be paying for two different SHOWTIME® subscriptions for the exact same content, just on different devices.

Hulu with Live TV – Hulu also recently released their Live TV service, which provides subscribers access to more than 50 live and on-demand channels, including local channels, sports, and entertainment.

Like with a Basic plan, subscribers will gain unlimited access to Hulu’s complete streaming library, but with the addition of 50 hours of Cloud DVR storage, which can be watched on two screens at the same time. The company tells us there are no hidden fees and you’ll be able to cancel anytime.

Hulu’s new Live TV service is pretty robust, so let’s take a closer look at its details.

Hulu Live TV: Channels, Devices, & Add-Ons

After subscribing to Live TV, you’ll find local network stations like ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC; sports stations such as ESPN, ESPNU, CBS Sports Network, Big Ten Network, and the SEC Network; popular entertainment options like E!, Food Network, HGTV, SyFy, TNT, and Lifetime; and kid’s channels like Disney and Cartoon Network.

Note: As with traditional cable, though, the Hulu website emphasizes that some games will be subject to regional availability and blackouts. Also, you won’t be able to live stream NFL games to your smartphone due to rights restrictions.

Looking to learn more about the specific channels available in your area? You can quickly find out by entering your zip code on Hulu’s Live TV page.

Hulu Channel ListA list of the 50+ channels available with Hulu’s Live TV subscription. Image credit: HULU

Which Hulu Live TV Add-Ons Are Available?

In addition, there are two main add-ons available with a Hulu Live TV subscription:

  • Enhanced Cloud DVR – This upgrades your available DVR storage to 200 hours and also allows you to fast-forward through commercials and stream recordings anywhere on supported devices, without any limit on simultaneous recordings.
  • Unlimited Screens – As the name implies, this add-on allows content streaming to unlimited screens while at home, and up to three screens when you’re not.

As with the Basic plan, you’ll also be able to add SHOWTIME to your Live TV subscription.

Which Devices Are Supported With Hulu Live TV?

Currently, Live TV can be enjoyed on Apple iPhone and iPad, Android phones and tablets, Xbox One, Apple TV (4th generation), and Chromecast.

However, the company notes that support is coming soon for Amazon TV and Fire TV Stick, Roku devices, and Samsung TVs and Blu-ray players, along with Mac and PC support through Hulu.com.

Related: Seeso Review

Speaking of devices, will you need any special equipment with your subscription?

What Do You Need to Use Hulu?

According to the Hulu website, “Users only need a Flash 10.1.53.64 enabled computer and an Internet connection to enjoy.”

This is because Hulu is app-based, which means you don’t necessarily need any specific kind of hardware to enjoy their programming. This also means you can pause a program on your computer, log in on your phone a day later, and pick right back up where you left off.

While this is the basic setup, the reality is that you'll be able to watch Hulu programming on just about any Internet-connected iOS, Android, or Amazon Kindle Fire device, in addition to Xbox, PS3, and Roku. For more information, be sure to browse through Hulu's full list of supported devices.

Regardless of whether you’re watching on your computer or another device, Hulu runs on a pretty minimal user interface, which makes viewing easier on the eyes.

Other Streaming Subscription Services

Despite the amount of TV-related content featured on Hulu, as well as the app’s widespread integration and ease of use, this doesn’t mean that the service doesn’t have some stiff competition. This includes popular options such as Netflix, Amazon Instant, and hundreds of content-specific apps (e.g. NBA TV, HBO Go, Pluto TV, and more).

And when it comes to watching live TV without a cable subscription, Hulu with Live TV is up against popular competitors like Sling TV ($20-$25/mo; add-ons $5-$15/mo), YouTube TV ($35/mo), Playstation Vue ($30-$75/mo), and DirectTV Now ($35-$70/mo).

When compared to these other options, the primary benefit of Hulu seems to be the sheer number of TV shows featured on the website (we’ll talk more about price in a second).

However, it’s important to note that the quality of your streaming content (720p or 1080p) depends on your device and your display’s capabilities. Further, 4K content can currently only be enjoyed on the Playstation 4 Pro and Xbox One S.

Does Hulu Contain Advertisements? If So, Why?

If you’re thinking about taking the plunge and giving Hulu a try, one of the first questions that probably came to mind was, “Why does Hulu contain ads?”

In the company’s own words, they “have found that by including a modest ad load in Hulu’s on-demand library, we can keep the entry price for subscribers under eight bucks, while still providing viewers with access to stellar shows – especially from the current TV season – on their favorite supported devices.”

And while there’s no indication on the Hulu website as to how much a “modest ad load” translates to in the real world, or how long each advertisement will be, many of us here at HighYa are Hulu subscribers and have found that—on average—you’ll be forced to sit through eight to nine 15-second commercials for every half-hour TV show you watch.

Related Article: Streaming Services: With So Many Choices, How Can You Pick the Right One?

Perhaps to add insult to injury, we’ve also found that the length and frequency of ads has only increased over the years, and that only a few ads are on rotation at any given time. Ultimately, this means that if you watch several episodes of your favorite TV show in a row, you could end up watching (and re-watching) the same ads over and over again.

Their No Commercial add-ons could potentially help alleviate some of this, but will you pay a lot for a commercial-free experience?

Hulu Pricing & Refund Policy

Hulu’s plans are priced as follows:

  • Basic: $7.99/mo
  • Hulu with No Commercials: $11.99/mo
  • Hulu with Live TV: $39.99/mo

A No commercials plan will increase your monthly cost to $11.99 and $43.99, respectively. Important note: According to TomsGuide:

“A note on that $5 commercial-free surcharge: It won’t cut commercials out of on-demand shows from individual networks, nor will it even cut every Hulu ad; some networks require ads to be shown before and after shows rather than in the middle. Paying for content and still having to sit through ads has always been my least favorite part of Hulu’s service, and unfortunately, it’s as obtrusive as ever here.”

As mentioned earlier, there is no commitment and your subscription can be changed or cancelled at any time. Add-ons will cost you:

  • SHOWTIME (Basic or Live TV): $8.99
  • Enhanced Cloud DVR (Live TV only): $14.99
  • Unlimited Screens (Live TV only): $14.99

Confused by all these different options? Hulu offers a handy comparison chart that allows customers to compare Live TV against their current plan to see how they differ.

Hulu vs. Hulu LiveCompared to the standard plan, Hulu’s Live TV subscription provides access to 50+ channels, 50 hours of cloud DVR storage, and multi-screen access. Image credit: Hulu

If you're new to Hulu, the company offers a free 1-month trial for their Basic plan and a 1-week trial for Live TV. At the end of this trial, your account will automatically roll over to a paid subscription if you don't call to cancel.

Unless the company suspends or cancels your Hulu account, no refunds are available. In other words, once you cancel your membership, it will continue until your pre-paid period expires, after which you’ll no longer have access.

In order to cancel your Hulu account or ask questions, you can contact customer service at (888) 265-6650 or through an online form.

What Are Customers Saying about Hulu & Live TV?

HighYa Reader Reviews

Since writing our original Hulu review, more than 214 HighYa readers have provided their feedback about the service, giving it an average rating of 1.7 stars.

While the most common compliment included being able to watch popular TV shows at any time, by far the most common complaint (here on HighYa as well as elsewhere online) referenced that, even if you pay money to upgrade to Hulu, you’ll still have to watch several commercials for each TV episode you watch. Because of this, many Hulu customers have called into question its overall value.

Other less common complaints appear to revolve around poor playback (constant buffering, freezing, etc.), which could be more related to a customer’s router and internet connection than to the streaming service, as well as a less-than-stellar selection of non-TV content.

What About Third-Party Hulu Reviews?

At the time of our research, there were also a whopping 8,400+ Hulu customer reviews on Amazon, with an average rating of 3.7 stars. There, common compliments and complaints mirrored those found here on HighYa.

From a professional standpoint, Digital Trends wrote an in-depth comparison between Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Instant Video earlier this year, and although they noted that Hulu does have some solid features, they recommended that you choose one of the other services, unless you need to keep up on your favorite network TV shows.

Similarly, Geek.com wrote, “Hulu has a significant library of content, and their attempts to bring a social element to their sharing and commentary may end up being a big deal to specific groups of users, but it is pretty clear which service is the better overall provider of content. If you have to choose between the two, Netflix is absolutely the way to go.”

Can We Learn Anything From Customers About Hulu With Live TV?

Regarding their new Live TV service, PC Mag’s Bill Greenwald gave it a 4-star rating and appreciated that it offers access Hulu’s vast content library, along with a solid selection of channels (including many locals). They also liked the cloud-based DVR and the sharp picture when watching live TV.

On the other hand, they found it difficult to find out which live programming was available, but still called it a “powerful cord-cutting tool.”

Similarly, Engadget and Gizmodo thought it’s great to get live TV and access to Hulu’s entire library at the same time, but they felt it still needs a little tweaking—primarily the interface. Both thought it was attractive, but that it was cumbersome to use (no show guide available) and not very intuitive.

Overall, they seemed to like the service and were excited about what’s to come, but they lamented the absence of AMC or Viacom content, as well as channels like MTV, Nickelodeon, and Comedy Central.

As a company, Hulu, LLC is based out of Santa Monica, CA. They weren't rated with the Better Business Bureau at the time of our research, although they did have 57 closed complaints (as of 6/10/15). Most of these appeared to reference difficulty canceling subscriptions and stopping automatic charges.

Is Hulu Worth Your Money?

Chopping to the point: As we mentioned in 3 Easy Steps For Cutting the Cord, there are a lot of important decisions to be made when the time comes, most of which largely depend on your personal preferences. And while no service is perfect, Hulu is really the only game in town if you want quick and easy on-demand access to recent, popular TV shows featured on major networks.

And the new No Commercial and SHOWTIME plans can add even more entertainment value, although they’ll also increase your monthly expenses by a decent amount.

Hulu’s new Live TV service also catches it up with competitors like Sling TV and DirectTV Now, although online reviewers seemed to think it features some significant programming gaps and that the user interface isn’t very intuitive.

At $40-$84 (if you choose all add-ons, including SHOWTIME), Hulu and their Live TV service are meaningfully more expensive than options like Sling TV and YouTube TV, although you’ll also gain access to Hulu’s extensive library.

Playstation and DirecTV’s options come in a close second, although it’s possible to pay more for Hulu with Live TV than all of them. And considering that the average cable bill is about $70, if you initially cut the cord to save money, you can see that it’s easy to pay just as much—or more—if you’re not mindful about your upgrades.

With all of this said, in our opinion, Hulu is definitely worth trying out if you’ve recently found freedom from cable. And once you become more familiar with your other options, you can then decide whether or not Hulu’s advertisements and other quirks are worth your hard-earned money.

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Read 216 Hulu and Live TV Customer Reviews and Complaints

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Average Consumer Rating: 1.7
Rating Snapshot:
5 star: 14 4 star: 7 3 star: 12 2 star: 48 1 star:  135
Bottom Line: 11% would recommend it to a friend
Showing 1-11 of 216
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  • 1 out 8 people found this review helpful

    Hulu is Good

    • Yuba City, CA,
    • Jun 9, 2015

    Hulu is a great service, would recommend to everyone.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 5 out 11 people found this review helpful

    Love It

    • Richardson, TX,
    • Jun 8, 2015

    Biggest problem with Hulu Plus is the lack of sports. However, I love the service.

    My DVR can't record everything so I love being able to pick and choose which new shows I would like to record and which will be on Hulu the next day. This makes setting the DVR much easier, knowing I will record my favorite shows and the others I'll catch on Hulu the next day.

    Hulu also has apps for many devices. All the apps seem to work great for the devices. So far I have tried Wii U, Android, Kindle Fire, and Roku.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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    Comments (1)
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    • Feb 7, 2014

      Josh

      Obviously a paid endorsement, or he works for them. Seriously, he would rather watch ads than just forward through them by using a DVR?

      Yeah, right. Completely unbiased. Go blow smoke somewhere else.


  • 6 out 13 people found this review helpful

    Mom's best friend

    • Seattle, WA,
    • Jun 9, 2015

    I'm a stay at home mom and most of the days I don't have the time to watch TV. So the feature that I absolutely love about Hulu Plus is that when I do find the time for myself I can just watch as many episodes as I want without just being limited to an episode a week.

    Overall, the website and the iPad app are easy to use, the quality of picture is excellent and the price of Hulu Plus is so much cheaper than cable. I highly recommend them.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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    • Feb 7, 2014

      Amy

      When you have "time for yourself" you have time to watch more than 1 complete episode with all the freezing issues and commercials? There goes the mom claim.


  • 6 out 12 people found this review helpful

    Works for us

    • Knoxville, IL,
    • Jun 23, 2015

    I see most of the negative reviews are about streaming problems. We have broadband internet and Hulu Plus is perfect 99% of the time. We love watching the shows when we want, with short commercial breaks. When I think of the cable TV bill I used to pay, I can't stop smiling.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

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    • Feb 9, 2014

      Chris S

      No, most of the reviews AREN'T for streaming problems. Hulu's streaming problems were fixed pretty much starting in 2012. Hulu's main problem is frequent commercials and lack of movie selection. Most of their movies are foreign, indie, Japanese (think Godzilla and Kung Fu), and a few Indian movies. You WON'T find many Hollywood blockbusters here at all.

      As far as TV shows, they have a good selection of classic TV sitcoms from the 60's-today. If you were a kid in the 1980's, you'll like A-Team, Macgyver​, Knight Rider, stuff like that. Most of the Hulu's original TV shows are stupid, geared for 20 something guys.


  • 3 out 7 people found this review helpful

    Awesome Sauce.

    • Folsom, CA,
    • Jul 13, 2015

    I love Hulu Plus. It has all the hit new shows on stream and does not have too many ads in between. I like it much better than Netflix as far as convenience and access to new or popular shows all in one app. I would definitely recommend you check it out.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

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  • 10 out 13 people found this review helpful

    Why do people give it bad ratings?

    • Poplar Bluff,
    • Jul 13, 2015

    I have "cut the cable" and use only Hulu Plus for my main TV. As long as you stop looking at the TV guide for cable, you will find all kinds of shows. And you can watch every episode, and every season. I love it. My cable bill was $90 a month. I pay $8 for Hulu. I think Hulu is better than cable. I'll never go back to cable.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

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    • Jul 11, 2015

      S. Rudolph

      I agree with you. I am also saving $82/month by switching to Hulu Plus and they have most shows available the next day. Thumbs up for me!


  • 2 out 3 people found this review helpful

    Hulu Plus is misunderstood

    A lot of people complain about the commercials on Hulu. They obviously compare it to Netflix or Amazon. Such a comparison is not fair, as Hulu Plus is something else. Yes, Hulu has complete TV series and movies just like Netflix and Amazon. However, what makes Hulu special, is that Hulu has a lot of fresh TV as VOD. Brand new episodes of TV shows are available as VOD at the same time as they are shown on the TV networks. E.g., one can watch the latest episodes of The Jimmy Kimmel Show, Gotham, etc. The price for this is short commercials in the programs. That's OK with me.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

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  • 1 out 2 people found this review helpful

    Hulu is Misunderstood

    • Redding, CA,
    • Sep 10, 2015

    Too many people are not understanding how to use Hulu and Netflix. Together they cover most of TV. First off, you need to know the names of the shows you want to watch to find them on Hulu. One good source is the top 250 shows on Life Hacker as this lists the best TV shows. Always try Netflix first and when a series is not complete on Netflix, you can usually find the series on Hulu. But you need to know what's out there or you will not locate it on Hulu. I think together they are worth $22 a month.

    Next month Hulu is getting Epix. Also you can try like the 30 best shows in a particular genre. I have been happy about what I have found. Amazon Prime only has the HBO stuff and a few other shows. Shows such as Nypd Blue, Orphan Black, but most shows (except HBO content) will make it over to Netflix or Hulu.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

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    • Apr 18, 2017

      Duncan

      I definitely need to know what you're looking for to make sure you don't get sucked into the streaming service browsing abyss.


  • 4 out 5 people found this review helpful

    Love

    • Wilmore KY,
    • Oct 21, 2015

    I am really enjoying paying a lot less and watching the same shows and no commercials, it's really nice to only watch what I want. With cable you pay outrageous prices and half the channels you don't even watch, it's ridiculous. I am so glad that I decided to cut the cord, it's the best decision I've made all year and I save nearly $120 a month and I didn't have to give up any of my shows to do that. I am one happy customer.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

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  • 1 out 3 people found this review helpful

    Love Hulu for Asian drama shows

    • Greenville, SC,
    • Nov 4, 2015

    I will give Hulu 5 star for being able to watch many Asian drama shows. Thanks Hulu.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

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  • 1 out 7 people found this review helpful

    Glorified Netflix

    • Pennsylvania,
    • Mar 23, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    Defiantly worth it for the price vs. Netflix. Netflix offers too many B-rated movies, if not C. Netflix gives each movie like 4-6 genres.

    It is better than cable! Thanks Hulu.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

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