YouTube TV vs. Hulu Plus Live TV: The Pros and Cons of Each Streaming Service Rated – CNET
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Hefty cable bill? Here are two premium live TV options which can save you money without missing out on the content you love.
We’re all watching more TV, and with sports such as NBA basketball and NHL hockey getting to the sharp end of their seasons, it’s a great time to consider a live TV streaming service. At CNET we’ve tested six of the major services, and our two favorites for premium users — cord-cutters who don’t mind paying a bit more for a full package of channels and features — are YouTube TV and Hulu Plus Live TV.
These two cost more than most streaming services but they’re still cheaper than cable. A premium subscription lets you cut the cable TV cord while keeping features like an advanced DVR with program guide and extensive on-demand content. Both services offer a large selection of live channels, such as CNN, ESPN and TNT, as well as local stations ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and more. You can access them via media streamers such as Roku, Amazon Fire TV or Apple TV, your game console or your smart TV itself.
In general, we like YouTube TV best, because of a handful of important channels that Hulu lacks, including your local PBS station. It’s also $5 less expensive at $65 per month. However, Hulu also has an excellent selection of channels and adds a gigantic catalog of on-demand shows and movies as well as the Disney Bundle — Disney Plus and ESPN Plus — included in the $70 price.
Here’s how they stack up.
With an excellent channel selection, easy-to-use interface and best-in-class cloud DVR, YouTube TV is the best cable TV replacement. It offers a $20 4K upgrade, but the downside is there isn’t much to watch at present. If you don’t mind paying a bit more than the Sling TVs of the world, YouTube TV offers the highest standard of live TV streaming.
Read our YouTube TV review.
Hulu’s greatest assets are the integration of a full complement of live TV channels with a massive catalog of on-demand content, and all for the one price. Hulu’s channel count is solid, including some must-have programming. Its price $70 includes Disney Plus and ESPN Plus. Starting Dec. 8, Hulu will change its Live TV packaging to include Disney’s new ad-supported plan for the $70 price, and offer higher-priced choices for people who don’t want to watch ads.
Read our Hulu With Live TV review.
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The biggest difference comes down to channels. Comparing the total channel counts from our big list of the top 100 channels on every service, YouTube TV comes out on top with 79 from that list, compared to 73 on Hulu. That total doesn’t include every channel the services carry, just the ones in the top 100 as determined by editors at CNET, but it still provides a good indication.
The two share most major national channels including Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, ESPN, Fox News, NFL, TBS, USA Network and more, but there are a few differences.
Here’s a condensed version of that list showing the 15 of those 100 channels carried by one and not the other.
Both services offer all four of the major local channels — ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC — in most areas of the country, and both also carry local affiliates from The CW and MyTV. Only YouTube TV carries PBS local stations; you can’t watch your local PBS affiliate live on Hulu.
Neither service offers many regional sports networks after both YouTube TV and Hulu dropped them in 2020. Beyond RSNs, however, YouTube TV has an advantage in national sports networks, with NBA TV available as part of its base package. Though YouTube TV used to have MLB Network as well, it dropped the channel earlier this year. You can pay another $11 to get the “Sports Plus” add-on that also includes Fox College Sports, GolTV, NFL RedZone and Fox Soccer Plus. Hulu users can sign up for a $10 package which includes NFL RedZone, Outdoor Channel, Sportsman Channel, MAVTV Motorsports Network, TVG and TVG2.
Premium channels like HBO, Starz and Showtime are also available for extra fees, and Hulu has two optional channel packages. One is an add-on for $8 per month with 17 channels including MTV Classic, CNBC World, the Cooking Channel and Science, and the other is a Spanish-language package with seven channels for $5. YouTube TV doesn’t have any additional channel packages, although you can add individual channels like Shudder and CuriosityStream for additional fees.
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The YouTube TV interface on Roku.
The menus and interfaces on both are quite different from one another and from regular cable, and we like YouTube TV’s menus better overall.
YouTube TV: In general the YouTube TV interface is easier to use, and not just to people used to using regular YouTube. If you’re using the desktop or app versions, Google’s streamer offers a streamlined structure — even if it’s not as pretty as Hulu.
Hulu Plus Live TV: If it was all a matter of which interface is more fun, then Hulu would take it. Hulu’s look is brighter, and though it lacks YouTube’s comprehensive search it’s still relatively easy drill down into the kind of content you want to watch.
The difference in the number of simultaneous streams is worth noting, especially for families and other households who watch a lot of TV. YouTube TV lets you stream to three different devices — say, the living room TV, a bedroom TV and a tablet — at the same time, while Hulu lets you stream to two. Pay Hulu a hefty $10 extra per month and it will upgrade your number of streams to unlimited.
YouTube TV has an excellent cloud DVR but Hulu closed the gap with an upgrade in 2022. Both now have unlimited storage and let you fast-forward through commercials in recorded content, so while we still consider YouTube TV’s DVR the gold standard, Hulu’s is very good too.
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Only Murders in the Building is an Hulu exclusive
YouTube TV includes on-demand TV shows and movies from participating networks and shows, much like your cable service, and also offers YouTube Originals commercial-free. But it pales in comparison to Hulu.
As we mentioned above, a Hulu Plus Live TV subscription unlocks all of the on-demand TV shows and movies available on the standard Hulu service, including thousands of episodes of network TV shows, as well as originals like The Bear, The Handmaid’s Tale, Only Murders in the Building, Pam & Tommy and the movie Palm Springs. It also includes a Disney Plus and ESPN Plus subscription, with their massive on-demand libraries.
Read more: Hulu: The 42 Best TV Shows to Watch Now
Both services represent the peak of what live TV streaming has to offer, and both are better overall than the other two major premium options, FuboTV and DirecTV Stream. Your choice between the two comes down to cost, channel selection, usability and content, and in our book YouTube TV bests Hulu Plus Live TV in most of those areas. Hulu enables you to integrate a wide channel selection with its exemplary on-demand library which may be worth it for some. In the end though it’s all about having access to your favorite channels, so choose the service which gives you the channels you want.
Below you’ll find a chart that’s a smaller version of this massive channel comparison. It contains the top 100 channels from each service. Some notes:
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