Hulu Plus Live TV Review: The Best Value In Premium Live TV Streaming

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Sarah Tew/CNET
> EDITORSCHOICE Nov 2020

You've probably heard the phrase "change is the only constant." Its author, Greek philosopher Heraclitus, was talking about life itself, but it applies to live TV streaming services too. For the first half of 2020 YouTube TV was our Editors' Choice in premium services, but then the company raised its price by 30%, from $50 to $65. As a result we started recommending Hulu Plus Live TV instead. Inevitable, however, Hulu has raised its price to $65 as well, matching YouTube TV. Now that they're the same price, YouTube TV is once again our favorite higher-end TV service for cord cutters, offering the most channels and best features. 

8.7

YouTube TV

$65 at YouTube TV CNET may get a commission from these offers.

Like

  • More channels than any competitor, including PBS
  • Superb cloud DVR
  • Excellent on-screen interface and handy search bar

Don't Like

  • Expensive

Unlike Hulu, YouTube's price hike brought some extra channels such as Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon. Google's service now offers 76 of the top 100 channels, handily beating Hulu and the rest of the premium-priced competition, namely AT&T TV Now and Fubo TV. Its channel selection includes numerous cable staples and all four local networks -- ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC -- in most markets nationwide. YouTube TV is also the only multichannel streaming service with local PBS stations. In short, you might not even miss cable.

Beyond channels, YouTube TV is easy to use, slick and fast on a variety of TV and mobile devices. Its cloud DVR is the best in the business, with unlimited storage and pretty much all the capabilities of a hardware DVR such as TiVo

The big snag, of course, is the price. For people used to the myriad channels and easy DVR of cable or satellite, it could be worth the extra expense over an entry-level service. For cord cutters who want more savings, however, Sling TV Blue at $30 per month is still pretty great and is especially suited to people on tighter budgets.

What do you get?

YouTube TV is different from YouTube, the free video service with more than 2 billion users a month. YouTube TV offers an experience similar to cable TV, with live channels and on-demand content available on a variety of devices. It works with Apple TV, Roku, Android TV, ChromecastAmazon Fire TV along with numerous smart TVsphones, tablets and web browsers. 

The service operates in much the same way as competitors -- there's a program guide, a DVR and dozens of channels. But what really separates YouTube TV from other premium ($50-plus a month) services such as AT&T TV Now, Hulu with Live TV and FuboTV? Let's take a look.

Top live TV streaming services compared

AT&T TV Now FuboTV Hulu Plus Live TV Sling TV YouTube TV
Base price $55/month for 45-plus channels $60/month for 100-plus channels $65/month for 60-plus channels $30/month for 30-plus (Orange) or 45-plus (Blue) channels $65/month for 85-plus channels
Free trial Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC channels Yes, in many markets Yes, in many markets Yes, in many markets Fox and NBC only in select cities Yes, in many markets
Simultaneous streams per account 2 ($5 option for 3) 2 ($6 option for 3) 2 ($15 option for unlimited) 1 (Orange), 3 (Blue) 3
Family member/user profiles No Yes Yes No Yes
Cloud DVR Yes (50 hours, 200 hours for $10 a month) Yes (30 hours, 500 hours for $10 a month) Yes Yes Yes
Fast-forward through or skip commercials with cloud DVR No (Yes with $15 option) Yes No (Yes with $10 option) Yes Yes

YouTube TV's channel selection is excellent, with more from our list of 100 top channels than any other competitor. That said, more channels doesn't necessarily mean more of what you want: Some services such as FuboTV lean heavily on sports while others are more wide-ranging. It's best to check the list at the end of this article, which compares individual channels across services, to make sure you're getting the channels you want.

Like Hulu, YouTube TV doesn't offer any add-on channel packages, although it does have a handful of single-channel add-ons like Showtime, Epix, HBO and HBO Max to your subscription. 

What's it like to use?

YouTube TV's user interface is fairly simple. There are three top-level tabs broken into Library, Home and Live. Library is where your DVR content lives. Home is where both featured and live thumbnails appear. The Live tab is a familiar-looking program grid which shows currently playing and upcoming shows. You can search for content from the top of any page, which makes it relatively easy to jump straight to the content you want. You can also perform searches with a compatible voice remote or Google Assistant

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You can connect to YouTube to watch related clips.

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The service's tie-in to YouTube proper is welcome -- with YouTube originals included -- though it could be more tightly integrated, especially on TV devices. For example, a content page appears when you press the Go To button on a show, and a Related on YouTube item appears at the bottom. It would be helpful to have thumbnails of related interviews and trailers appear more prominently on this page without having to delve into menus.

The DVR works well and includes the ability to rewind and fast-forward freely through recordings, even ones that aren't yet completed. The Roku interface offers a 15-second skip by default while the Apple TV's control system is even better. You can use the touch pad to scroll through videos -- and it's glorious! It's so much fun and thumbnails make it relatively easy to home in on the part you want.

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The DVR enables you to fast-forward and rewind, while Apple TV enables you to scrub through the timeline.

Sarah Tew/CNET

In the past, when a show appeared in a network's on-demand library, it would automatically replace the version in your cloud DVR. That means you'd lose the ability to fast-forward through commercials. YouTube TV says it got rid of that restriction in October 2018, but some CNET readers have complained that it still occurs at times. Additionally, YouTube TV's DVR is not truly unlimited. The shows expire after nine months, but this is still a lot longer than the 30 days you get with most rivals.

YouTube TV won't save you as much money

At $50 YouTube TV was very attractive, but as the service has added more channels it also added further costs. When you add that $65 monthly fee to the $50 you're already paying for internet, it means you're paying over $110 a month. Many cable TV providers will give you a TV-and-internet bundle for around the same money.

Prices vary a lot, of course, and with cable you probably have to pay rental equipment fees, taxes and other extras. And cable providers usually reserve the best bundle pricing for people who sign a contract. The same goes for new "streaming" offerings such as AT&T TV and Comcast's Infinity Flex.

Like Hulu with Live TV, Sling TV and others, YouTube TV is contract-free, so you can cancel at any time. Streaming services also have other advantages over cable. They're easier to watch on phones and tablets, for example. At $65 per month, however, you'll have to be coming from a relatively expensive cable bill to realize substantial savings with YouTube TV. 

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The service comes with a comprehensive program guide.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Should you get YouTube TV?

If price is no object, YouTube TV is my favorite live streaming service, but at $65 the value proposition could be tough for some people. If you don't want to be beholden to a traditional cable company it's a great alternative, though you don't save that much money. But as has happened in the case of Hulu Plus Live TV being cheaper if someone offers a better deal you can just switch without hassles. If you're a hardcore cord cutter though, Sling TV Blue offers a compelling package especially when paired with an antenna or an AirTV 2

Below you'll find a comparison of the top 100 channels offered by a few of YouTube TV's competitors. For more information and comparisons with additional services, check out the full article.

Source : https://www.cnet.com/reviews/youtube-tv-review/

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