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 202 Hulu and Live TV Customer Reviews and Complaints

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Average Consumer Rating: 1.6
Rating Snapshot:
5 star: 10 4 star: 5 3 star: 10 2 star: 48 1 star:  129
Bottom Line: 9% would recommend it to a friend
Showing 1-11 of 202
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  • 24 out 26 people found this review helpful

    Advertisements on a subscription service? Are you serious?

    • Salt Lake City, UT,
    • Aug 12, 2015

    I am on day two of my 7-day trial period, and I am already thinking of cancelling my subscription. None of the movie or television titles I wanted to watch were available on their service. Their selection is very limited, and why in the world would they insert commercials in the middle of movies? When I watched a few flicks on Cinemax, they didn't insert commercials, so why does Hulu do this? That's absurd. Also, the picture quality wasn't very good. It looks distorted, especially when there's a lot of movement in the scene. I'm not impressed with this service at all.

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

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  • 19 out 19 people found this review helpful

    Ads? Seriously?

    • Herndon, VA,
    • Jun 25, 2013

    The fact that you have to pay to watch shows with ads is really annoying! Not worth it at all!

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

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  • 19 out 21 people found this review helpful

    Not worth your time or money

    • Wilkes Barre, PA,
    • Jun 9, 2015

    I always wanted to get Hulu plus and finally got it and it is constantly loading, and too many commercials for a 1/2 hr. tv show, with the loading a 1/2 hr turns into 46 min. So after only 4 days we canceled Hulu plus, had Netflix 2 years never had that problem, and I wanted to see my One Life To Live again, but was not worth the hassle.

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

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  • 17 out 17 people found this review helpful

    Hulu isn't that great

    • Missouri,
    • Jun 9, 2015

    We've had Hulu plus for over a year. I don't mind paying the low price and having to watch a few ads per episode. It is frustrating, however, that 3 30 second commercials freeze and take 10 minutes because of my "poor connection" (which isn't poor at all. We have great Internet service and connection. When we have playback errors, my hubs checks the speed, and it's always where it is supposed to be, so Hulu's full of it!).

    Also, Hulu, I don't want to choose an "ad experience". No one cares. Get rid of this "service" and just play ads automatically!

    If it weren't for the frozen ads and playback errors, I'd love Hulu. Honestly though, I'm thinking about getting rid of it.

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

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  • 17 out 19 people found this review helpful

    Hulu is pathetic

    • New York,
    • Jul 7, 2015

    Selection and General Experience:

    *Movie choices are abysmal. Their movies are either really old or low budget things you’ve never heard of. There are some decent documentaries, but no better than what you could get from Netflix.

    *Though Hulu Plus requires a monthly fee, you still have to sit through commercials. Frequently, especially if you’re watching multiple episodes of the same show, you’ll have to watch the same commercial repeatedly. It’s maddening.

    *They list some shows as if they have them to draw people in, but then it turns out they really don't. Sometimes you go to the page for the show and it states straight out they don't actually have it, though I guess they leave it there so it will show up in search results as if they do. Other times, they're just carrying a link to the network site. *Then there's all of the stuff that they can only provide if you have a TV provider to connect. So, you have to be paying a TV provider, paying for Hulu Plus, and still watch the repetitive commercials. If I had a TV provider, wouldn't I just be watching it on TV that way?

    Hulu TV app:

    *There’s regular stuttering. I’m afraid to pause, rewind, or fast-forward because, if it’s not already doing it, this seems to trigger it. Sometimes it's so bad that, not only is it not watchable, but I have to turn the TV off to get it to stop because it won't respond to normal attempts to stop the video. It can't be blamed on issues with the internet connection since 1 episode can play perfectly smooth and the very next one is stuttering to the point of being virtually not watchable right from the beginning, not to mention that the Netflix app isn’t having this problem.

    *Sometimes it freezes in the middle of the episode altogether. When I restart it, it reverts back either to the beginning of the last chapter or even loses the place completely and starts again from the beginning. If usually forces me to sit through the previous commercials all over again.

    *There’s often an excessive loading time before resuming the episode after commercials but, funnily enough, commercials never seem to have a problem.

    Queue:

    *Online and TV app queues are not fully synced. Shows in my queue online often don’t show up in my queue on the app even for shows that are available there if I search for them. *Often, new episodes of shows that I have a subscription for aren’t showing up in my queue and I have to find them and put them there manually. At other times, it puts episodes I’ve already watched and removed from my queue back in again, sometimes days later.

    *The order of the queue and subscriptions in the TV app makes no sense. It's not alphabetical, it's not the order they were originally put on, it's not the order I have them in my queue online; it's just a mess.

    Customer support:

    *Hulu’s system couldn't validate my credit card during the sign up for the 2-week trial. Hulu’s website will only provide a phone number to their Hulu Plus subscribers which, obviously, you can’t become if you can’t sign up. So, I had no other alternative than to send a message to support.

    *Long response times: Days passed with no response. I sent a second message and it still took days to get a response.

    *Canned responses: Eventually, both messages were responded to with the exact same canned response, saying that my card must have restrictions placed on it that prevented online recurring payments.

    *Either don’t fully read messages or ignore information contained in them: They continued to insist the problem was due to card restrictions even after I told them the card had no problems being used with anything else, including online recurring payments for Netflix.

    *No resolution: Ultimately, there was no resolution from Hulu support and I had to find my own workaround (used PayPal with the same card). I enjoyed responding to their survey about how my customer service experience had been.

    All and all, while Netflix and Hulu Plus don’t offer quite the same thing, it’s sad that Hulu Plus charges roughly the same as Netflix while providing a far more shoddy and inferior service.

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

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  • 16 out 18 people found this review helpful

    Rather pay for cable

    • Urem, UT,
    • Aug 9, 2015

    We only have Hulu plus because of a free subscription on our new TV but it only works on the shows you want to watch sometimes which is annoying and all the commercial ads are ridiculous. I'd rather pay for Netflix and cable instead of Hulu plus. You also get limited show options. I don't recommend to anyone.

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

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  • 16 out 17 people found this review helpful

    Total Frustration

    • Murfreesboro, TN,
    • Aug 12, 2015

    I´ve been trying to subscribe and be happy with Hulu plus, but lately It´s been impossible. I just watch Revenge, Scandal, Once upon a time and Beauty and the Beast. Revenge stopped on 13th episode, the same as Once upon a time and Scandal three weeks ago. Beauty and the beast skips from episode 1 to 7 (they don´t have 2 ,3, 4, 5, 6 available) I feel bored about the excessive ads (shows stops every 3 or 4 minutes) and I can tell that the money I paid was a total waste. Feeling unsatisfied.

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

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  • 16 out 18 people found this review helpful

    Paying with Paypal is safe, right? Nope.

    • May 25, 2016
    • Verified Reviewer

    I initiated a free trial a few days ago, never tried the service then and to this date haven't, and as a precaution I terminated the recurring subscription -- which in turn terminated the whole trial. So I'm like, shady business practice, okay, not an overly huge deal.

    I contacted customer service and complained that I was never given the trial. They made "adjustments" on my account that claimed to make the free trial possible again. Now I'm all happy that I finally get to enjoy the free trial I so eagerly wanted.

    Well, nope. I activated the free trial of $0.00 and they couldn't verify payment information (no money was in my account), okay. I decided their service was broken, went to Paypal Preapproved Payments list, and completely disabled all of their preapproved charges and thought that'd be the end of it.

    A few days later, a preapproved payment was opened on my account without my consent, and they took the money out. I had other purchases on my accounts made to other websites, and instead of Paypal holding the funds to me like it did, it sent them completely to Hulu.

    So on top of fraud and Hulu taking my money until the dispute is over, they delayed one of my orders. I fervently hate this company and wish to see them go bankrupt. Let's make a campaign to bring them down.

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

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  • 15 out 15 people found this review helpful

    What, exactly, am I paying for?

    • Miami Beach, FL,
    • Jun 11, 2015

    Hulu is on-demand, with the same amount of commercials as regular TV. If you watch on a device other than on line there are even more commercials. And I'm supposed to pay for it?

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

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  • 15 out 15 people found this review helpful

    Not impressed at all!

    • Clarksville TN,
    • Jun 11, 2015

    Second day of Hulu Plus and there's too many commercials. Really? Not shows I want, in other words no GOOD selection! Just terrible, not even interested in the rest of my free trial. Don't waste your time and definitely don't pay for Hulu Plus!

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

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  • 15 out 16 people found this review helpful

    Just signed up with Hulu and that was a mistake.

    • Philadelphia , PA,
    • Jun 11, 2015

    This is nonsense with all the constant annoying and long commercials.

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

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