YouTube TV vs Hulu + Live TV: Which cable TV alternative wins?

A graphic of a TV with its screen split by logos of YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV
(Image credit: Google and Hulu)

A recent price increase made the YouTube TV vs. Hulu + Live TV choice even more complicated. These services may be two of the best cable TV alternatives, but now they're even closer in price. Also, since channel assortment matters, both services losing one channel recently (as we'll detail below) may matter to you. 

I've just updated this comparison to add notes from my first weeks of having used Hulu + Live TV as my personal live TV service.

Top options for those who cut the cord, YouTube TV and Hulu's live TV offerings are well-regarded for offering all of the major broadcast networks (while competitor Sling TV is missing CBS and ABC). Although Hulu packs a strong value proposition with its bundled services, YouTube TV may entice with a higher channel count, lower price and other sports-first perks.

So, we decided to do what we do best: put these services in a head-to-head competition. And for those who have a smaller budget, check out my YouTube TV vs. Sling TV face off to see how those stack up. If you're wondering what I use, I recently made the call to ditch Sling TV for YouTube TV.

For all of these comparisons, while I'm already familiar with the services, I started testing them again to make sure this YouTube TV vs. Hulu + Live TV comparison (and all other face-offs) reflect the most-recent versions of both services (testing was done on both the Apple TV 4K (2022) and the Fire TV Stick 4K).

Without further ado, let's break down all the fine print, the Hulu + Live TV and YouTube TV channels, special features and more!

YouTube TV vs. Hulu + Live TV: Specs

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YouTube TVHulu with Live TV
Starting Price (per month)
$73 (starting in April 2023)$70
Channels (in entry-level package)More than 100 plus YouTube OriginalsMore than 85, including Disney Plus with ads and ESPN Plus
Device Support
Smart TVs (Android TV, Hisense, LG, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, Vizio), Fire TV, Roku, Chromecast with Google TV, Apple TV, Xbox One and Series X|S, PS4 and PS5, Android, iPhones and iPadsSmart TVs (Android TV, LG, Samsung, Vizio), Fire TV, Roku, Chromecast with Google TV, Apple TV, Xbox, PS4 & PS5, Nintendo Switch, Android, iPhones and iPads
Simultaneous Streams
3 (Unlimited option available in $84.99 per month package)2

YouTube TV vs. Hulu + Live TV: Channels

For the most part, the YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV channel assortments are similar. 

YouTube boasts more channels (claiming over 100), while Hulu declares it has more than 85 "top channels". And while the two share a lot of networks in common, each is missing something. 

The channel grid on YouTube TV

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey / Tom's Guide)

For those popular networks, Hulu + Live TV beats YouTube by offering History and Lifetime, which YouTube TV doesn't have. Both services are missing Me TV (a classic TV network) and INSP (a westerns network).

That said, other discrepancies are found when closely examining the lists. YouTube is also missing A&E and the ACC ESPN sports network (which Hulu has).

The channel grid on Hulu + Live TV

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey / Tom's Guide)

Meanwhile, Hulu's most-glaring omissions are Univision and the AMC network (aka no Better Call Saul or The Walking Dead), and it's also missing Ion, BBC America, BBC World News and Sundance.

Here's a breakdown of how many of the top 25 most popular TV networks are on YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV's entry-level packages.

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ChannelYouTube TVHulu with Live TV
1. NBCYesYes
2. CBSYesYes
3. ABCYesYes
4. FoxYesYes
5. Fox News ChannelYesYes
6. ESPNYesYes
7. UnivisionYesNo
8. MSNBCYesYes
9. HGTVYesYes
10. Hallmark ChannelYesYes
11. IonYesNo
12. TLCYesYes
13. TNTYesYes
14. TelemundoYesYes
15. TBSYesYes
16. HistoryNoYes
17. Discovery ChannelYesYes
18. Food NetworkYesYes
19. INSPNoNo
20. USA NetworkYesYes
21. CNNYesYes
22. Me TVNoNo
23. BravoYesYes
24. LifetimeNoYes
25. The CWYesYes

One little feature I love about Hulu, though, is that it offers east and west coast feeds of certain channels, so folks out west can watch along with their friends out east. This is available for Cartoon Network and Adult Swim, TBS, TNT, Animal Planet and Discovery.

Recent channel losses have hit both services, as Hulu lost the Boomerang animation network, and YouTube TV lost MLB Network.

Winner: Hulu + Live TV, but only by their east and west coast feeds.

YouTube TV vs. Hulu + Live TV: Price

Youtube TV app on Apple TV home screen

(Image credit: Future)

This one was cut and dry. A YouTube TV price hike means the service that used to start at $64.99 per month will be $72.99 per month in April 2023. Hulu + Live TV starts at $69.99 per month, $3 less. 

Oh, and on top of that, Hulu offers a better value proposition, though, which we'll get to below.

Winner: Hulu + Live TV, by $3

YouTube TV vs. Hulu + Live TV: Value

While the overall channel total and entry-level price lean toward YouTube TV, those who want more than just live TV (and love some of the best streaming services) get more with Hulu + Live TV. 

The Hulu app on an Apple TV home screen

(Image credit: Future)

Of course, that begins with the shows and movies on Hulu (starting at $7.99 per month on its own) with ad-supported content. Hulu + Live TV also includes Disney Plus (also $7.99 to start) and ESPN Plus ($9.99 per month). Those three add-ons, commonly referred to as The Disney Bundle are currently a $12.99 value. You may not want all of those services, but we bet at least one appeals to most.

That said, YouTube TV does give you one more simultaneous stream, with three streams at once, to Hulu + Live TV's two.

Winner: Hulu + Live TV for the bundlers

YouTube TV vs. Hulu + Live TV: Picture quality

YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV stream live TV at varying rates, but mostly in the 720p to 1080p range, matching what most cable channels offer. YouTube TV makes it easy to see the picture quality rates available in an on-screen menu, Hulu does not offer such affordances. 

More frustratingly, neither YouTube TV nor Hulu + Live TV include 4K live streams with their entry-level, $73 or less, plans. Yes, some of Hulu's on-demand content is in 4K. Yes, YouTube TV offers some 4K feeds ... for another $19.99 per month. Which has us cackling. Only FuboTV includes 4K streams by default.

On mobile, though, I've recently noticed that Hulu + Live TV feeds can sometimes look lower-res than YouTube TV feeds.

Winner: Nobody. We all deserve better.

YouTube TV vs. Hulu + Live TV: Sports

Both YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV let you 'follow' your favorite teams and record all games available, but neither is strong about regional sports networks. Sadly, for channels such as YES, NESN and the Bally Sports channels, you'll want a FuboTV or DirecTV Stream

YouTube TV hits home runs with its sports options, though. Not only will it be the new home of NFL Sunday Ticket (which will also be sold ala carte), it also offers the NFL Network and NBA TV. 

Of those, Hulu only offers NFL Network. Neither service carries MLB Network, as Hulu's been without it, and YouTube TV just dropped it after a reported dispute over fees.

Stats are overlaid on screen during a football game on YouTube TV

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey / Tom's Guide)

YouTube TV is also better for sports fans who want more data-driven content, as you can check scores and stats in its menus. Hulu has nothing like that. And when it comes to catching up on all the big moments, YouTube TV's Key Plays is a truly killer feature.

YouTube TV's $10.99 Sports Plus add-on package includes 14 channels, including NFL RedZone, beIN Sports, Billiard TV, Fox Soccer Plus, Fight Network, FanDuel TV, and Stadium. Hulu's $9.99 Sports Add-on is a buck cheaper, but only has 6 channels: NFL RedZone, MAVTV for motorsports, FanDuel TV, FanDuel Racing, Outdoor Channel and Sportsman Channel.

Winner: YouTube TV practically pitches a shut-out on this one.

YouTube TV vs. Hulu + Live TV: DVR

The DVR screen on YouTube TV

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey / Tom's Guide)

We hate to hand out ties (we're not Men's Wearhouse), but YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV both have the same cloud-based DVR specs. Each gives you an unlimited amount of recordings which expire after nine months.

The DVR menu on Hulu + Live TV

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey / Tom's Guide)

This is the best option you can get in live TV streaming services, which DirecTV Stream matches. Sling TV limits you to 50 hours by default, and FuboTV's intro-level Pro package includes 1,000 hours of recordings.

Winner: Tie

YouTube TV vs. Hulu + Live TV: User experience

I've hit a weird bug with Hulu + Live TV recently: sometimes while watching live TV on a laptop, it won't let me rewind through an ad break. I'm waiting to see this happen more consistently to believe it's a flaw and not a glitch.

The home screen on YouTube TV

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey / Tom's Guide)

All of the above, though, isn't entirely important if you don't actually like using the service. Both of these services are good, but while I loved using YouTube TV, I did not have that experience using Hulu + Live TV. Both apps, though, automatically load a channel, something I wish they would not (it's often a show I'm not intending to watch), as Sling doesn't do that (and I'm used to Sling).

YouTube TV's a little better in this regard, because it begins with a home screen of recommendations, while Hulu's Live tab makes you click the down button on your remote to open its TV guide. In practice, both are similarly stable, though I did see Hulu + Live TV buffer once (YouTube TV did not).

Chandler (Matthew Perry) is on the phone in Friends, playing on Hulu + Live TV

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey / Tom's Guide)

Also, Hulu + Live TV is buried inside the Hulu app, under the Live tab. Sometimes, this isn't a problem, but other times it feels like I'm forced to click through a bunch of Hulu content to get to the live TV I want,

You may get used to that, but it gets confusing at times. For example, when I scroll through the home screen trying to find a recently-watched episode of WWE Monday Night Raw that I haven't finished, clicking on its tile in Continue Watching loaded Hulu's ad-supported, on demand version, which is shorter than the full recording — and has commercials you cannot fast-forward through. I've never encountered such an issue on YouTube TV.

Also, fast-forwarding and rewinding is simply more seamless on YouTube TV.

Winner: YouTube TV, which had a head-start with the YouTube app perfecting the streaming experience

YouTube TV vs. Hulu + Live TV: Verdict

As you've seen throughout this YouTube TV vs Hulu + Live TV face-off, these are similar services. Your decision may be made by the channel selection alone. But, were all things equal — and if you don't really care about Hulu, Disney Plus and ESPN Plus — YouTube TV edges out Hulu.

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CategoryYouTube TVHulu + Live TV
Channels (25 points)2122
Price (25 points)2425
Value (15 points)1015
Sports (15 points)138
User experience (10 points)95
Picture Quality (5 points)33
DVR (5 points)55
Total (100 points)8583

Which is better: Hulu + Live TV or YouTube TV?

YouTube TV is the best if you care about sports, Hulu + Live TV is the best for those looking for the best bang for their buck. YouTube TV's above meager two-point win (an updated score) shows how much YouTube TV's new price makes this more of a toss-up than ever. 

But for our money, we give the win to YouTube TV. Barely.

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.