Hulu + Live TV never really impressed me — it was only good enough. So, when a price hike was buried inside of a press release about ad-supported versions of Disney Plus launching internationally I felt especially ticked off.
For months now, I've spent $70 on Hulu's cable TV alternative, but I'd be spending $77 per month were I to stick around when price increase lands in October. And I can't rationalize this price increase. Even it arrives with $7 worth of price increases, including a Disney Plus price hike, those are for the ad-free versions. Hulu + Live TV's $77 version only gives you the ad-supported versions of its bundled subscriptions.
Frustrated, as this will be the third time I cancel one of the best cable TV alternatives this year, it's time to survey my options and look at why I want to leave.
Hulu joins the tide of rising prices
This was the year of the price hike in live TV services. With the exception of Philo (which doesn't have live sports or national broadcast networks such as NBC and FOX) everyone raised their entry-level rates in at least one way.
Sling, oddly enough, rolled out a $5 price bump tied to ABC in select markets in March, after a $5 price hike for all last December. The rest? Well, they increased prices for all, while Fubo even added on a regional sports fee for many that you won't see until checkout.
|Service (price hike date)||Starting monthly price|
|Sling TV Blue (Mar.)||$45 (in NYC) — $40 elsewhere|
|YouTube TV (April)||$73|
|DirecTV Stream (April)||$75|
|Fubo (Jan.)||$75 (before regional sports network fees)|
|Hulu + Live TV (Oct.)||$77 (as of October 2023)|
Without context, this makes Hulu + Live TV the most expensive cable TV alternative. But that jump doesn't take into account the perks that have me considering staying around: Disney Plus and Hulu.
Right now, I am grandfathered into a bundle with ad-free Disney Plus and ad-supported Hulu ... and also ESPN Plus, which I don't need. This was once available as a $14.99 bundle, and would now cost $32.97 if you piecemeal it together. And I'm OK with getting ads on Hulu even when I don't like them: Hulu's content (more so than Disney's library of Pixar, Marvel and other movies) is seemingly built with ad-breaks in mind.
Whittling down my options
When it comes to live TV channels, I'm actually not as needy as you might think based on the fact that I keep switching services. All I really need is FX, TBS, TNT, USA and my local Fox broadcast network.
Plus, I want some way to watch F1 live streams, which you can watch on ESPN networks, ESPN Plus and the $10 per month F1 TV Pro service. For the rest of my TV-watching, I'm good with on-demand services such as Max, Netflix and Peacock.
Those needs eliminate Philo (none of the above) and Fubo (no TBS or TNT), and gives me a strong set of options. I get to choose from the the best cable TV alternatives based on features like cloud DVR. And that's one area where Hulu + Live TV subscribers are rich:
|Service||DVR capacity||Paid upgrade|
|Sling||50 hours||200 hours costs $5 per month|
|Philo||Unlimited (9 month limit)||n/a|
|YouTube TV||Unlimited (9 month limit)||n/a|
|Hulu + Live TV||Unlimited (9 month limit)||n/a|
|DirecTV Stream||Unlimited (9 month limit)||n/a|
Hulu, just like Philo, YouTube TV and DirecTV Stream gives you an unlimited cap for recordings. Sling, which I'll gripe about later here, only gives you 50 hours of DVR time, which I fill up in less than a month's time with a normal week's worth of professional wrestling recordings (yes, I know I have a problem).
This leads me to the one challenger I haven't talked about much here.
I want to leave Hulu + Live TV because of its interface
The Hulu + Live TV interface suffers because someone decided (probably to cut down on costs) that Hulu and its live TV service should be in the same app. This means you (or at least I) can often click on a promoted show or movie, thinking it's a DVR recording.
On top of that, Hulu's "guide" view is basically hidden, because I guess it doesn't "deserve" a menu icon on the left side. Instead, you have to click down (or click through some menus) after opening a show. To nitpick, this is annoying because I don't want to just open the last channel I was on and mute that if it's something I don't like. I thought we moved on from cable TV.
YouTube TV, however, has the best interface bar-none. Everything's smooth and intuitive, and it just works. Fast forwarding and rewinding is so smooth on YouTube TV (which had a head-start with YouTube).
Were it not for its 2023 price increase and lack of add-on services, I'd still be subscribed.
Outlook: So, where am I headed?
This brings us to my big table of options, which go as low as $55 per month.
|Header Cell - Column 0||Price||Why I'd want this|
|Hulu + Live TV (with Disney Plus and ESPN Plus)||$77||Less thinking, all channels|
|Sling Blue ($45) + F1 TV Pro ($10) + Disney Plus with no ads ($14)||$69||When I want Disney Plus ... for Loki season 2|
|Sling Blue ($45) + F1 TV Pro ($10)||$55||The default until F1 season is over|
|Sling Blue ($45) + F1 TV Pro ($10) + Hulu with ads ($8)||$63||When I want Hulu|
|Sling Blue ($45) + F1 TV Pro ($10) + Hulu and Disney Plus with ads ($10)||$65||When I'm OK with more ads|
|Sling Blue ($45) + ESPN Plus, ad-free Hulu and Disney Plus ($25)||$70||When I want the least ads|
|YouTube TV||$73||If I don't want Hulu or Disney Plus|
Month to month, starting this October, I'm going to need to pay close attention to how much I actually want and need Hulu and Disney Plus. The aforementioned price hike hits right after Loki season 2 begins, which has to be somewhat intentionally-timed.
But if Loki's return doesn't "hit" for me, and no Hulu or other Disney Plus shows do? I could be saving $20 per month while trying to ignore Sling's paltry DVR capacity. My guess, though, is that I'll get Sling Blue, F1 TV Pro and Disney Plus — and still save $8 per month. That's about 10% of Hulu + Live TV's monthly bill.
I know this is all an extremely personal streaming shopping experience that I'm explaining, but I do so with a specific intent. To encourage you to make sure you're making the most of the money you spend on streaming.